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deleuze and the passions

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Introduction Ceciel Meiborg and Sjoerd van Tuinen


21 “Everywhere There Are Sad Passions”:

Gilles Deleuze and the Unhappy Consciousness Moritz Gansen

To Have Done with Judgment of “Reason”:

Deleuze’s Aesthetic Ontology Samantha Bankston


59 Closed Vessels and Signs:

Jealousy as a Passion for Reality Arjen Kleinherenbrink

The Drama of Ressentiment:

The Philosopher versus the Priest Sjoerd van Tuinen


103 The Affective Economy: Producing and Consuming Affects in Deleuze and Guattari Jason Read

Deleuze’s Transformation of the Ideology–Critique Project:

Noology Critique

Benoît Dillet



Passion, Cinema, and the Old Materialism Louis-Georges Schwartz

Death of Deleuze, Birth of Passion David U.B. Liu

175 Biographies



Ceciel Meiborg and Sjoerd van Tuinen

paspas do passe passiopassion do ne do ne domi ne passi ne dominez pas ne dominez pas vos passions passives ne ne domino vos passio vos vos ssis vos passio ne dodo vos vos dominos d’or c’est domdommage do dodor do pas pas ne domi pas paspasse passio — Ghérasim Luca, “Passionnément” 1

In recent years the humanities, the social sciences, and neu- roscience have witnessed an “affective turn,” especially in dis- courses around post-Fordist labor, the economic and ecological crisis, populism and identity politics, mental health, and politi- cal struggle. 2 This new awareness of affect remains unthinkable without the pioneering work of Gilles Deleuze, who, following Baruch Spinoza, displaced the traditional opposition of reason

1 Ghérasim Luca, “Passionnément,” Le chant de la carpe (Paris: Le Soleil Noir, 1986), 87.

2 See for example Patricia Ticineto Clough and Jean Halley, eds., The Affec- tive Turn: Theorizing the Social (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007) and Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth, ed., The Affect Theory Reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010).

deleuze and the passions

and emotion with the new opposition between sad and joyful passions which diminish or increase our capacity to think and act. He thus replaced judgment with affect as the very move- ment of thought. While classical rationalism implies a moral judgment over and against emotions, the new one is an ethical evaluation of the rationality of emotions themselves. As Spinoza already put it: “we neither strive for, not will, neither want, nor desire anything because we judge it to be good; on the contrary, we judge something to be good because we strive for it, will it, want it, and desire it.” 3 For Spinoza, affect constitutes the bare activity of the world. An affect occurs when two finite modes of being (bodies or ideas), each defined by its conatus or its striving for persistence, encounter each other, leading to either an increase or a decrease of their respective powers to affect and to be affected. Affects, then, are collective becomings, i.e., processes or passages of de- sire individuated by the manner in which beings seek to aug- ment their power to engage with others. They are primordial to, albeit inseparable from, sensations, emotions, feelings, tastes, perceptions, beliefs, meanings, and all other forms of cognition. Whereas the more articulated and exchangeable forms of feeling and cognizing are already individuated and personalized “affec- tions,” affects cannot be reduced to the different ways in which they are embodied and the intellectual states in which they are interpreted. Rather, they contain a transformative potential. For Deleuze, affective becomings make up the ontological element of a transcendental empiricism, a differential element of forces (Friedrich Nietzsche) or tendencies (Henri Bergson) that is au- tonomous, neutral and eternal. Thought, or the problem of how to orient ourselves within this element, is a matter of empirically and experientially learning to compose with affects. Spinoza distinguishes passive affects that are prompted by an exterior force, and active affects that stem from an internal cause. Ideas or bodies are active when their actions follow only

3 Baruch Spinoza, Ethics, trans. Edwin Curley (London: Penguin Classics, 1996), III P9.S.


from themselves, whereas they are passive to the extent that they depend on other bodies and ideas. Passion, as Spinoza puts it, is “a part of Nature which cannot be perceived clearly and distinct- ly through itself.” 4 Because of its finitude, however, no mode is purely active. All activity is embedded in the lived world along the lines of passions. Whereas the Cartesian “clear and distinct” offers an image of autonomous thought (“I think”) as immedi- ately self-transparent consciousness of self-evident (true) ideas, in reality thought — the active-passive becoming of ideas — is never separable from the obscure and the confused, in other words, the “unconscious.” This is why Deleuze redistributes the rationalist economy of light, even if he does so in a way more indebted to the Leibnizian theory of the unconscious than Spi- noza: whereas active affects are distinct but obscure, passions are clear but confused. 5 Adequate ideas distinctly express their immanent causality (pure immanence), but as actions or events their visibility amounts only to little glimmerings in the night. Consciousness or clear perception, by contrast, is of the order of effects; it is composed of passions (impure immanence) that express the powers of others and ourselves confusedly. The trajectory of liberation that defines Spinoza’s Ethics is the movement of learning by which thought, born in bondage and confusion, passes into the adequate comprehension of affect and acquires its full potential (the state of beatitude). In practice, then, thought always begins with the passions. These are the be- liefs, perceptions, representations, and opinions that attach us to the world and that, by giving us an initial orientation, force and enable us to think. From language to consciousness, every- thing finds its basis in passion, which makes up the very mate- rial of which our lives and thoughts are composed. As soon as we are confronted with empirical knowledge and human affairs, no matter whether this concerns emotions in psychology and sociology, sensation in art, passion in theology, or the struggle

4 Ibid., III P3.S.

5 Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York:

Columbia University Press, 1994), 196–98, 208–14.

deleuze and the passions

with opinion in philosophy, we are always dealing with passive affects. Rather than being a philosophy of passions, we should therefore say that Deleuze’s philosophy puts passion at the core of thought. It is through passion that we acquire our power of action and thus a power to produce concepts or what Spinoza calls common notions, which are adequate expressions of our communal being. The philosophical task for Deleuze is not one of banning the passions from thought, but rather a question of “How do we extend the passions, give them an extension that they do not have of themselves?” 6 To become free is to socialize the passions in a political body. “The people must be individual- ized, not according to the persons within it, but according to the affects it experiences simultaneously or successively.” 7 The liberation of thought is a becoming active of passion, which always involves joy, since “there is a necessary joy in creation.” 8 Joyful passions bring us closer to our volition, while sad passions, on the contrary, weaken our power, binding de- sire to the illusions of consciousness and separating us from our power to act. Put differently, joyful passions augment our power, while sad passions enslave us. Instead of truth as ultimate cri- terion of judgment, the only principle according to which af- fective becomings can be selected and evaluated is the extent to which they proliferate joy. “A mode of existence is good or bad, noble or vulgar, complete or empty, independently of Good and Evil or any transcendent value: there are never any criteria other than the tenor of existence, the intensification of life.” 9 If it takes a lot of inventiveness or imagination to become able to diagnose our present becomings, however, this is because be-

6 Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts: 1953–1974, ed. David Lapou- jade, trans. Michael Taormina (Los Angeles/New York: Semiotext(e), 2004), 167.

7 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Min- nesota Press, 1987), 341.

8 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 134.

9 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tom- linson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994),



comings are always composite. Desire is a heterogeneously de- termined mixture, like a line of experimentation traversing a plane on which becomings find their consistency: “there is no desire but assembling, assembled, desire.” 10 Upholding the em- piricist principle of the externality of relations, Deleuze claims that within an assemblage “the relations themselves are assigned

a sense, a direction, an irreversibility, and an exclusivity accord-

ing to the passions.” 11 Thus in an assemblage there are always paradoxical factors at work. Health, as Nietzsche has shown, is not so much the absence of sickness, but rather a composi- tion of contrasting tendencies that leads toward less sickness and more health. 12 Likewise, Deleuze discovers in Primo Levi or Yasser Arafat — but also in philosophy itself — a kind of glory that only occurs in relation to the shame that constitutes their

initial motivation. 13 In each case, the relation between the terms (health/sickness, glory/shame) is never a simple opposition, as

if their difference was already analytically included in them. In-

stead, this difference depends on a whole constellation of exte- rior forces, on “the dominant affective tonality” which recruits desire to increase its power. 14 Spinoza shows how the recruitment of desire traditionally takes place through the tyrants and priests who inspire sad pas- sions in us, just as Karl Marx demonstrates how in capitalism enslavement primarily takes place through employment rela- tions. As Frédéric Lordon has pointed out, Fordism, marking capitalism’s earlier stages, is based on a passionate servitude that instigates and feeds off the fear of starvation when one

10 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 399.

11 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 166.

12 Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann, pub- lished together with On the Genealogy of Morals, ed. Walter Kaufmann, trans. Walter Kaufmann and Reginald J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 222–3.

13 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 107, and Gilles Deleuze, “The Grandeur of Yasser Arafat,” trans. Timothy S. Murhpy, Discourse 20, no. 3 (1998): 30–33.

14 Frédéric Lordon, Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza & Marx on Desire, trans. Gabriel Ash (London/ New York: Verso Books, 2014), 24.

deleuze and the passions

would quit working in the assembly line. 15 Similarly, the work of Deleuze and Guattari on capitalism and schizophrenia can be read as an encyclopedia of the passions that constitute the af- fective infrastructure of the socius of contemporary capitalism. These include sad passions such as shame, spite, guilt, stupid- ity, mistrust, weariness, fatigue, fatalism, cynicism, ignorance, hope, anguish, disgust, contempt, cowardice, hatred, laziness, avidity, regret, despair, mockery, malversation, and self-abase- ment. Whereas the deterritorializing forces of capital constantly demand from us a “passional betrayal” of the dominant social structure, these same passions need to be controlled on the level of our private lives (i.e., the Oedipal triangle). This is why in the formation of a well-emancipated individual the priestly origins of western subjectivity can still be clearly discerned. The con- temporary culture of health and abstinence, as Slavoj Žižek has famously pointed out, is a culture of safe sex, smoking bans, cof- fee without caffeine, intolerance for misogynic jokes, wars with- out casualties, and so forth. 16 But capitalism could not exist if it did not also inspire joy, love, courage, and perhaps even beati- tude. Fordism already compensated for fear by installing a hope for more consumption. Today we witness “the spectacle of the happily dominated” of the managerial class, the flex worker, the citizen-consumer, the bean-roasting hipster, the homo economi- cus, and the self-managed team. 17 It is only in late capitalism that individuation takes place primarily in the form of the self- centered subject that is working for his or her self-realization. With the rise of the self-entrepreneur we can perhaps speak for the first time, despite the manifest oxymoron, of a veritable vol- untary servitude, in which enslavement is immediately fulfilled by joyful passions. Philosophy, the passion of doing philosophy, is far from in- nocent in this respect. It represses the creative act of thinking by

15 Lordon, Willing Slaves of Capital, 23–28.

16 Slavoj Žižek, Demanding the Impossible, ed. Yong-june Park (Cambridge:

Polity Press, 2013), 83–85.

17 Ibid., xi–xii.


enslaving thought to that haggard image of self-sufficient and

self-gratifying rationality that it inevitably produces of itself. As Deleuze and Guattari ask us: “Is there anything more passional than pure reason? Is there a colder, more extreme, more self-in- terested passion than the Cogito?” 18 This explains why Deleuze hardly lives up to the caricature of the affirmative thinker of spontaneous happiness that still dominates his legacy. 19 There is joy in destruction, especially in the destruction of Reason. Spi- noza already pointed at the common disregard for passions of the thinkers of his era, claiming that “they attribute the cause of human impotence and inconstancy, not to the common power

of Nature, but to I know not what vice of human nature, which

they therefore bewail, or laugh at, or disdain, or (as usually hap- pens) curse.” 20 Working along the naturalist axis of Lucretius- Spinoza-Nietzsche and extending it into a Humean “empiricist conversion,” Deleuze equally maintains that the inseparability of reason and passion is in no sense anti-intellectualist or irration-

alist. Rather, their inseparability is critical, since it protects rea- son from its self-imposed stupidity (bêtise) by relating it to the unthought, i.e. the distinct but obscure forces that condition it. And it is clinical, since for the naturalist, it is here that thought becomes possessed by a “power of aggression and selection.” 21

A thought only reaches consistency and prominence in “iso-

lated and passionate cries” that deny what everybody knows and what nobody can deny. At the beginning of thought, we

discover not a transparent self, but a self dissolved in the inter- stices of its passions, a veritably schizophrenic thought-drama:

“There is always another breath in my breath, another thought

in my thought, another possession in what I possess, a thousand

18 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 130.

19 “Reading Deleuze is like a Bacardi Rum advertisement. It is an adver- tisement without body: one never sees Bacardi rum; one only sees that everybody is happy” (Boris Groys, seminar “Immaterial Communication,” in Concepts on the Move, eds. Annette W. Balkema and Henk Slager, 50–67 [Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2002], 65).

20 Spinoza, Ethics, III Preface.

21 Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, xx.

deleuze and the passions

things and a thousand beings implicated in my complications:

every true thought is an aggression.” 22 Sharing Hegel’s question of how thought finds its way into the world and vice versa, Deleuze discerns an answer in Antonin Artaud and his concept of the theater of cruelty. The destruc- tion of the established image of thought involves a laborious ploughing through thick layers of passion. Only on the brink of exhaustion, where thought risks to be entirely submerged, do bursts and leaps appear that uncover a glimpse of spontaneous, non-prefigured, and non-subjugated thought-desire. Every true philosophical concept comes into being as a passionate cry. The philosopher faces a schizophrenic task, which “is less a question of recovering meaning than of destroying the word, of conjur- ing up the affect, and of transforming the painful passion of the body into a triumphant action, obedience into command […].” 23 This is where philosophy and literature meet, in defamiliarizing the familiar, not by taking a “philosophical distance” from the world, but by the full immersion of thought in the world and its material, i.e., passional reality. Ghérasim Luca’s “Passionné- ment,” for that matter, is not so much an act carried out on the mere surface of language, but rather an engagement with the limits of language. By stretching and condensing, by having it bear the weight of what it is not, language abandons its lofty Olympian throne of dialectical reason judging over the world in clear and distinct propositions, and affirms both itself and the world in the production of a new intensity. Or in the words of Deleuze: “The entire language spins and varies in order to disengage a final block of sound, a single breath at the limit of the cry, JE T’AIME PASSIONNÉMENT (“I love you passionately”).” 24

22 Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester (New York: Colum- bia University Press, 1990), 298.

23 Ibid., 88.

24 Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 110.

The contributions


It is well-known that Deleuze finds in Hegel the ultimate betray- al of this naturalist practice of philosophy. With thinkers such as Jean Wahl, Jean-Paul Sartre, Alexandre Kojève, and Jean Hyp- polite, the philosophical landscape of his formative years was dominated by Hegelianism. But as Moritz Gansen points out in his contribution, the unhappy consciousness that drives Hegel’s philosophical system is a thorn in the flesh of philosophy. Fol- lowing Nietzsche, Deleuze considers the unhappy conscious- ness “only the Hegelian version of the bad conscience,” that in- ternalized guilt and restlessness which multiplies and glorifies sad passions. The endeavor of escaping the totalizing tendencies of the Hegelian dialectics has defined his entire oeuvre. In his philosophical pursuit of joy and creativity, Deleuze seeks to circumvent the dialectical pursuit of reason, which “represents our slavery and our subjection as something supe- rior which makes us reasonable beings.” 25 Samantha Bankston demonstrates how a shift from a philosophy of judgment to a philosophy of affect implies a more radical shift from Being to becoming than the movement of the Hegelian concept allows for. Traditionally, reason forces upon thought the categories of Being, which are analogy, identity, opposition, resemblance. To accommodate for the transformative potential of a philosophy of affect, Deleuze develops a new, twofold concept of becom- ing. Sensory becoming refers to the immanent logic that makes up the composite nature of assemblages. Absolute becoming amounts to the becoming active, a “counter-effectuation” of the image of thought. Adopting the Nietzschean project of inverting Platonism and tracing the dialectic to its Socratic roots, Deleuze returns to the Greek dramatic setting of the agon with its rivalry between the claimants of truth. The first time he systematically takes up the theme of distinguishing “the true pretender from the false

25 Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), 92–93.

deleuze and the passions

one,” 26 is in the treatment of jealousy in Proust and Signs. As Arjen Kleinherenbrink demonstrates, the jealous lover can only distinguish himself from the other claimants and rightfully claim his beloved one if he reaches her true essence. The passion of jealousy enables him to become active, to make a difference. It does not, however, lead him to her true essence, but rather to the truth that her essence will keep on escaping him. Or, as Deleuze later puts it: “[D]oes not this passionate search for true opinion lead the Platonists to an aporia,” the gray zone in which truth and falsity become indiscernible? 27 Sjoerd van Tuinen further develops Deleuze’s method of dramatization by staging the priest and the philosopher as the two competing claimants to the concept of ressentiment. They embody respectively a nihilistic sense of the concept of ressenti- ment and a speculative sense. The priest moralistically judges others because of their ressentiment, while the philosopher im- manently affirms ressentiment, rather than opposing it. Histori- cally speaking, this difference leads to a parting of the ways in the discourse on ressentiment after Nietzsche. By psychologizing ressentiment and fixating it as the secretive emotion of guilty in- dividuals, authors such as Max Scheler and René Girard have in- strumentalized the concept of ressentiment to turn it against the voices of minorities. Deleuze, by contrast, is a genealogist who affirms ressentiment as an inherently political passion open to a drama of divergent becomings. Ultimately, the difference be- tween the priest and the philosopher is not a question of truth, but of passion. As conceptual personae, they are two passions of thought and thus two different powers of imagination and becoming. Whereas the priest judges on the basis of empirical facts, only the philosopher — Nietzsche’s philosopher-legisla- tor — possesses the transcendental right to wield the concept of ressentiment. Likewise, Jason Read points out that a philosophy of affect always carries the risk of interiorization, in which the intimate

26 Deleuze, Logic of Sense, 254.

27 Ibid., 148.


takes precedence over the social and the social is reduced to a set of individuals. Combining Spinoza’s inherently political ac- count of affect with Gilbert Simondon’s theory of individuation, Deleuze and Guattari in the Capitalism and Schizophrenia se- ries put forward two different ways in which this risk can be avoided. Anti-Oedipus provides a history of the dominant af- fects that determine the structure of feeling, while focusing on resisting reductive accounts of the social, with Sigmund Freud as its polemical target. A Thousand Plateaus, on the other hand, reaches beyond the historical determinations of affect by tracing the affects of capitalism that pass between the dominant pas- sions, indicating possible lines of flight. Following Deleuze and Guattari, Benoît Dillet argues that ideology critique is ineffective since it merely critiques a system of beliefs, rather than diagnosing the passions that are at the ba- sis of capitalism. The strict separation of psycho-social passions and economic interests in ideology critique reinforces a mecha- nism of neutralization of the joyful passions, because it denies the desire that is at the very core of capitalism. Instead, Deleuze and Guattari propose to expand the project of ideology critique to the project of noology critique, which refers to the study of the images of thought and their historicity. This means that the materiality and the passionate infrastructure that preconditions the dogmatic image of thought is taken into account. Louis-Georges Schwartz points out that the image regimes as presented by Deleuze in his books on cinema emerge dialec- tically from the labor-capital relations (formal versus real sub- sumption of labor under capital). With the full subsumption of labor — when labor itself and being available for labor become indiscernible — the image regime of the twenty-first century is what Schwartz calls Cinema Hostis. This regime pivots upon an antagonism; characters become each other’s enemies and the camera is the enemy of all. Just as each of Deleuze’s two im- age regimes expresses affects in its own signs and forms, with Cinema Hostis affects become weaponized molar ready-mades and lose their transhuman and deterritorializing character, im- mobilizing their creative potential.

deleuze and the passions

David Liu takes up the theme of the possibility of escape in asking us: When Deleuze jumped out of the window, toward his death — just as Luca jumped into the Seine one year earli- er — did he deframe or reframe the passions? Should we con- sider Deleuze’s suicide a line of flight or a line of death, or both at the same time? 28 The Spinozist division between joyful and sad passions forces a binary logic upon thought, which denies the fundamentally paradoxical and heterogenous nature of becoming. This dichotomy is only intensified in capitalism, in which you are either productive or unproductive, happy or sad. Deleuze may have escaped this capitalist dualism with his pub- lic suicide, which enabled him to affect and be affected at once. While implying his irrevocable death, his suicide also forces us to think about how life always carries death within it. With Liu we see how even Deleuze’s death impassions our thinking. To return to Deleuze’s question “How do we extend the passions?” we can maintain that he has indicated many open- ings for doing so. With this volume we aim to provide a system- atic study of Deleuze’s taxonomy of the passions and their im- portance for a thinking that reaches beyond itself, whether this is effectuated by tracing the sad passions that Deleuze tries to escape (Gansen, Bankston) or by engaging with strategies that integrate sad passions with joyful passions (Kleinherenbrink, Van Tuinen), by diagnosing the passions that make up the affec- tive infrastructure of capitalism (Dillet, Read, Schwartz) or by questioning the dichotomy of the joyful and sad passions alto- gether (Liu). We hope that, between the lines, you will read the passion that made us compose this volume, that this book will move you, and equip you with tools to extend this movement.

28 Cf. “This, precisely, is the fourth danger: the line of flight crossing the wall, getting out of the black holes, but instead of connecting with other lines and each time augmenting its valence, turning to destruction, abolition pure and simple the passion of abolition. Like Kleist’s line of flight, and the strange war he wages; like suicide, double suicide, a way out that turns the line of flight into a line of death” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 227).


“Everywhere There Are Sad Passions”:

Gilles Deleuze and the Unhappy Consciousness

Moritz Gansen

Hegel… Hegel? Quoi, qu’est-ce que c’est ça? — Gilles Deleuze 1

Philosophical sensibility

From the very beginning of his philosophical career, Gilles Deleuze defined philosophy as the “creation of concepts.” 2 Such creation, however, was never a matter of “pure” philosophy, “‘pure’ theory,” at least if philosophy and theory were to be un- derstood in a “traditional,” in a reflexive and rationalist sense, in

1 Gilles Deleuze, “Spinoza: Session 4,” lecture, Université Paris-VIII, Paris, France, January 6, 1981, php3?id_article=9, accessed September 28, 2016.

2 While this definition is most famously presented in What Is Philosophy? (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell [New York: Columbia University Press, 1994], passim), Deleuze used it from very early on. In 1956, for instance, he opened an essay on Bergson with the assertion that “[a] great philosopher creates new concepts” (Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts:

1953–1974, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Michael Taormina [Los Angeles:

Semiotext(e), 2004], 22).

deleuze and the passions

the sense of a “dogmatic image of thought.” 3 Instead, the philo- sophical creation of concepts was always mediated by certain affects, by passions, passing through the non-philosophical. Ac- cordingly, what Deleuze said about the late Michel Foucault was equally true of himself: “Thinking was never a matter of theory. It was to do with problems of life. It was life itself.” 4 This vital conception of thinking, one might say, constitutes Deleuze’s very own image of thought, and it conditions his “phil- osophical sensibility.” 5 After all, at least in hindsight, his interest in specific philosophers seems to be guided by an implicit sys- tem of affects, organized around the main coordinates of “joy” on the one hand and “sadness” on the other. For Deleuze, phi- losophy, considered as a matter of life, had to be “joyful.” As he told Jeanette Colombel in an interview in 1969, the true power of philosophy, even where it is critical and destructive, “springs from affirmation, from joy, from a cult of affirmation and joy, from the exigency of life against those who would mutilate and mortify it.” 6 Consequently, his writings on the history of philos- ophy focused on authors whom he considered a challenge to a philosophical tradition marked by rationalism on the one hand and negativity on the other. Among them were Lucretius, David Hume, and Henri Bergson, but “all tended,” as he explained, “to- ward the great Spinoza-Nietzsche identity.” 7 This attention for a supposed countercurrent in the history of philosophy, 8 championing an affirmative and vital understand- ing of philosophy, was paired with a determined rejection of

3 On the “image of thought,” cf. Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 129–67.

4 Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations 1972–1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York:

Columbia University Press), 105, trans. modified.

5 Deleuze, “Spinoza: Session 4.”

6 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 144.

7 Deleuze, Negotiations, 135, trans. modified; cf. ibid., 5–7.

8 Despite his appeals to a clandestine counter-lineage, one should not forget that Deleuze, as Giuseppe Bianco points out, “essentially wrote about the authors whom his professors had taught.” Among these professors were, most notably, Ferdinand Alquié, Georges Canguilhem, Maurice de Gandillac, Jean Hyppolite and Jean Wahl (François Dosse, Gilles Deleuze,

gilles deleuze and the unhappy consciousness

philosophy in its present state, evidently governed by a taste for negativity. For Deleuze, as for many others, this taste for nega- tivity was paradigmatically embodied in the prevalence of a par- ticular French Hegelianism, which, under the name of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel himself, became the target of an of- ten relentless critique, a critique that to some may have seemed excessive. As for instance Jean Wahl remarked in his generally favorable review of Nietzsche and Philosophy, one could get the impression that there was, “in the author, a sort of ressentiment toward Hegelian philosophy, which sometimes dictates him pas- sages of great rigor, but sometimes also risks to deceive him.” 9 And indeed, in his letter to Michel Cressole, Deleuze admitted that his persistent anti-Hegelianism was doubtlessly a matter of affects: “What I most detested,” he explained, “was Hegelianism and dialectics.” 10 However, given that affects are inevitably intertwined with philosophy as a matter of life, Deleuze’s passionate plea against Hegelianism is more than an idiosyncratic expression of person- al preference. It needs to be understood in terms of a systematic philosophical “symptomatology” and “typology.” 11 Approaching Deleuze’s critique precisely from the standpoint of such an affec- tive symptomatology, the present essay offers a — by no means exhaustive — reconstruction of an important aspect of the his- torical and systematic conditions of Deleuze’s anti-Hegelianism, arguing that his rejection of Hegel on the grounds of a theory of affects draws upon a particular figure of an inherently “sad” mode of thinking, the “unhappy consciousness,” which was introduced into French philosophy by Deleuze’s teacher Jean Wahl. It is precisely against the backdrop of a Hegelianism con-

and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, trans. Deborah Glassman [New York:

Columbia University Press, 2010], 109–10).

9 Jean Wahl, “Nietzsche et la philosophie,” Revue de Métaphysique et de Mo- rale 68.3 (1963): 352–79, at 353. Unless indicated otherwise, all translations of passages cited from French editions are mine.

10 Deleuze, Negotiations, 6.

11 Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 75.

deleuze and the passions

sidered as an “enterprise of ressentiment and the unhappy con- sciousness” that Deleuze seeks to develop and highlight, with the help of his readings of Baruch Spinoza and Friedrich Nietz- sche, his own affirmative conception of philosophy. 12

A Hegelian horizon

In 1968, in his preface to Difference and Repetition, Deleuze suggested that his book should be read in light of a current of “generalized anti-Hegelianism,” a valorization of difference and repetition over identity, negativity, and dialectics, which, ac- cording to him, was indicated in Martin Heidegger, in struc- turalism, in the contemporary novel, and so on. 13 At the time, however, Hegel had only recently been fully naturalized within French academic philosophy. In 1967, for example, Jean Hyp- polite, arguably the most important French Hegel scholar of his generation, 14 was planning to establish a “Center for Hegelian Studies” at the Collège de France (a plan thwarted by his death a year later), and in 1968 Hegel appeared on the syllabus for the written agrégation for the first time. 15 After a long process of rehabilitation, even revaluation, Hegel had become ubiqui- tous, and, as Deleuze’s colleague and friend François Châtelet asserted, he had been found to determine

a horizon, a language, a code, within which we still are today [sc. in 1968]. Hegel, by this fact, is our Plato: the one who

12 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 144, translation modified.

13 Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, xix.

14 Most notably, Hyppolite accomplished the first French translation of He- gel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in 1939 and prepared an extensive commen- tary, published in 1946, Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. Samuel Cherniak and John Heckman (Evanston: Northwest- ern University Press, 1974).

15 Cf. Alan Schrift, “The Effects of the Agrégation de Philosophie on Twenti- eth-Century French Philosophy,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 46.3 (2008): 449–73, at 458.

gilles deleuze and the unhappy consciousness

delimits — ideologically or scientifically, positively or nega- tively — the theoretical possibilities of theory. 16

There was hence an entire generation of young French intellec- tuals who were formed within these (neo-)Hegelian limits, and many of them seemed compelled to question, in one way or an- other, the authority of the alleged master thinker and his latest disciples. As Foucault noted in his homage to Hyppolite — his teacher at the Lycée Henri-IV and predecessor at the Collège de France — there was an “entire epoch, whether in logic or epis- temology, whether in Marx or Nietzsche, […] trying to escape from Hegel,” never quite sure whether he was not already wait- ing for them, behind another dialectical ruse, “immobile and elsewhere.” 17 Perhaps Foucault wrote these lines with Deleuze in mind. The latter had also been Hyppolite’s student in the 1940s, both at the Lycée Henri-IV and at the Sorbonne, and he was (and he had been for quite some time) indubitably trying to escape from Hegel, indeed, among others, through Nietzsche. As a student, Deleuze had inevitably been exposed to Hegelian thinking, to the “Hegelian triads” that Hyppolite, as he recalled, “pounded out […] with his fist.” 18 Therefore, one can assume that he “knew his Hegel,” despite the fact that he did not “admire” him and his thinking, and hence had “no reason to write about [him].” 19 In

16 François Châtelet, Hegel (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1968), 13.

17 Michel Foucault, “The Order of Discourse,” trans. Ian McLeod, in Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader, ed. Robert Young, 51–77 (London:

Routledge, 1981), 74.

18 Gilles Deleuze, quoted in Giuseppe Bianco, “Jean Hyppolite et Ferdinand Alquié,” in Aux sources de la pensée de Gilles Deleuze, ed. Stéphan Leclerc, 91–101 (Paris: Vrin/Sils Maria, 2006), 92n2; translated in Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, 95. Alain Badiou has remarked that “there was within him [Hyppolite] a subterranean negativity, a primordial ‘no’ about which we knew little but which was constantly at work” (Alain Badiou, Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy, trans. David Macey [Lon- don: Verso, 2009], 53).

19 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 144.

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this sense, to be more precise, Deleuze’s attitude is perhaps best rendered in a short passage he wrote about Nietzsche:

It has been said that Nietzsche did not know his Hegel. In the sense that one does not know one’s opponent well. On the other hand we believe that the Hegelian movement, the dif- ferent Hegelian factions were familiar to him. 20

The Hegelian movement familiar to Deleuze was, as mentioned before, a very particular one. As Foucault summarized much later, when looking back upon the years of his philosophical formation in a long interview with Duccio Trombadori, the pre- vailing French Hegelianism around the middle of the twentieth century was “permeated with phenomenology and existential- ism, centered on the theme of the unhappy consciousness.” 21 Precisely this is the context of Deleuze’s “affective” critique of Hegel.

The unhappy consciousness

The notion of the “unhappy consciousness” became prominent in France in the wake of the reintroduction of Hegel into French philosophy in the mid and late 1920s. After Hegel had for a long time, and especially in the context of the Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath, been considered the architect of a deadening and totalizing, a panlogicist and even Pan-Germanist system, 22

20 Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 8.

21 Michel Foucault, “Interview with Michel Foucault,” trans. Robert Hurley, in The Essential Works of Michel Foucault, 1954–1984: Power, ed. James D. Faubion, 239–97 (New York: The New Press, 2000), 246.

22 For a particularly striking example, cf. Henri Bergson, “Discours en séance publique de l’académie des sciences morales et politiques,” in Henri Berg- son, Mélanges, ed. André Robinet (Paris: Presses Universitaire de France, 1972), 1113, where Bergson links a Hegelian taste to the German invasion of Belgium in 1914, declaring that contemporary German philosophy was “simply the intellectual transposition of its [Germany’s] brutality, of its appetites, and of its vices. […] Germany, having definitely become a preda- tory nation, refers itself to Hegel, like a Germany taken by moral beauty

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he was now being rediscovered following the publication of the so-called Early Theological Writings (Theologische Jugendschrif- ten) in 1907. Philosophers like Wahl and Alexandre Koyré sud- denly began to see a different Hegel, one who seemed to exhibit very little of what previous readers had so fiercely criticized. 23 Read in productive conjunction for instance with the works of Søren Kierkegaard and Heidegger, these theological writings were reconnected to the Phenomenology of Spirit and interpret- ed in terms of a philosophy of concrete subjective experience, a philosophy, in other words, of existence. Before and beneath the systematic endeavors of the later years, Wahl and Koyré found a “human, vibrant, suffering Hegel.” 24 “Behind the philosopher,” they discovered, as Wahl put it, “the theologian, and behind the rationalist the romantic.” 25 The young Hegel, it seemed, had ac- tually anticipated the existential critique of his older self, 26 he had “in some measure,” as Hyppolite would claim, “foreseen Kierkegaard.” 27 Within this new reading, the unhappy consciousness came to be assigned an absolutely central role, most extensively devel- oped in Wahl’s Le malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel. If the Phenomenology of Spirit formed a propaedeutic to the system, the unhappy consciousness, already conceptually present in the early theological writings, embodied a kind of

would declare itself faithful to Kant or as a sentimental Germany would invoke Jacobi or Schopenhauer.”

23 Cf. especially Jean Wahl, Le malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel, 2nd ed. (Paris: Presses Universitaire de France, 1951); Alexandre Koyré, “Hegel à Iéna” and “Note sur la langue et la terminologie hégé- liennes,” in Études d’histoire de la pensée philosophique (Paris: Gallimard, 1961), 135–204; moreover Jean Hyppolite, “Les travaux de jeunesse de Hegel d’après des ouvrages récents,” Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 42.3 (1935): 399–426 and 42.4: 549–78; Jean Hyppolite, “Vie et prise de conscience de la vie dans la philosophie hégélienne d’Iéna,” Revue de Méta- physique et de Morale 45.1 (1938): 45–61.

24 Koyré, “Hegel à Iéna,” 137.

25 Wahl, Le malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel, v.

26 Ibid., vii.

27 Jean Hyppolite, “Discours d’introduction,” Hegel-Studien, Beiheft 3 (1966):

11–13, at 11.

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atavism within it, an expression of an “existential vibrato28 that, according to Wahl, subtended Hegel’s philosophy as a whole. In order to have become philosophically graspable, or con- ceivable, the unhappy consciousness must have had its specific truth in an actual crisis in Hegel’s own concrete subjective (i.e., biographical) experience: the experience of an unattainable re- mainder that, although the object of the most profound desire, must forever, and constitutively, remain out of reach. Where Hegel’s project grows into a striving for the creation of a philo- sophical system, it is at its core, for Wahl, “an effort toward the rationalization of a ground [fond] that reason does not attain,” 29 a sublimation, in other words, of an absolutely insuperable ten- sion. And since the experience of an absolute unattainability, as an experience that leaves the subject grounded in nothing but its own despair, is here also a fundamentally religious experience, 30 Hegel is easily approximated to Kierkegaard, the “true” philoso- pher of the unhappy consciousness, who is himself, “against the system,” “an unhappy consciousness.” 31 Hegel’s notion of the un-

28 Châtelet, Hegel, 11.

29 Wahl, Le malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel, 108.

30 Wahl and Hyppolite have pointed out that the unhappy consciousness, besides being a determinate moment in the Phenomenology of Spirit, can also be read as an adaptation of Hegel’s earlier theological writings. Although he does not explicate this in the Phenomenology, it can be said that the dialectic of the unhappy consciousness presents a phenomenology of religious experience in three historical stages. Its first stage, then, is the positing of an infinite immutable essence beyond the reach of a changing, inessential consciousness: Judaism, or the “reign of the Father.” Its second moment is the realization of the contradiction, the immediate incarnation of the immutable, which, in its immediacy, remains just as unattainable:

Christ, or the “reign of the Son.” In its third moment, finally, the unhappy consciousness develops “to the point of complete self-negation,” toward “actual sacrifice,” in order to overcome its unhappiness: the Church, or the “reign of Spirit” (Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenol- ogy of Spirit, 190–215; cf. also Wahl, Le malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel, 10–118).

31 Jean Wahl, Études kierkegaardiennes (Paris: Aubier, 1938), 112. According to Wahl, there is, in the young Hegel and in Kierkegaard, “the same revolt against concepts, the same affirmation of subjective feeling on the one hand and being on the other, insofar as both are irreducible to concepts,

gilles deleuze and the unhappy consciousness

happy consciousness is understood as prefiguring the Kierkeg- aardian notion of existential despair: 32 “As long as consciousness does nothing but produce a beyond that it endeavors to attain in vain, spirit cannot find its peace.” 33 It is in this existential experi- ence, then, according to Wahl, that we discover the root of the dialectic in a consciousness of internal tension and contradic- tion. In Hegel’s Phenomenology, the narrative of the process of the appearance of spirit, the unhappy consciousness follows upon the stoic and the skeptic consciousness in the problematic de- velopment of the freedom of self-consciousness, which in turn follows upon the more famous formation of self-consciousness in the dialectic of lord and bondsman. 34 The stoic self-conscious- ness, first of all, finds its abstract freedom in its perfect reclusion into the “simple essentiality of thought,” 35 entirely “turned away from the independence of things.” 36 The skeptic consciousness,

and the idea that in religion there is an absolute ‘being-one’ of two natures at the inside of the divine being and at the inside of the believing soul” (Ibid., 153).

32 Cf. “In all of Hegel’s systematic works there is one section that discusses the unhappy consciousness. […] The unhappy one is the person who in one way or another has his ideal, the substance of his life, the plenitude of his consciousness, his essential nature, outside himself. The unhappy one is the person who is always absent from himself, never present to himself. […] The whole territory of the unhappy consciousness is thereby ad- equately circumscribed. For this firm limitation, we thank Hegel, and now, since we are not only philosophers who view this kingdom at a distance, we shall as natives consider more closely the various stages contained therein.” (Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: Part I, eds. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987],


33 Wahl, Le malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel, 116.

34 For a more in-depth discussion of the notion of the unhappy conscious- ness, see for instance Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenom- enology of Spirit, 190–215; for Hegel’s own description of the unhappy consciousness, see §§206–30 of the Phenomenology of Spirit.

35 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), §199. In order to facilitate navigation across different editions, all references to the Phenomenology of Spirit are given as paragraph numbers.

36 Ibid., §200.

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then, denouncing the deceptive stability and unity of stoicism, turns toward radical negation. Within this negation, however, it is doubled and becomes internally contradictory, torn apart in its unconscious confusion: “At one time it recognizes that its freedom lies in rising above all the confusion and contingency of existence, and at another time equally admits to a relapse into occupying itself with what is unessential.” 37 The skeptic consciousness hence constantly moves from one extreme to the other at will, experiencing its contradictions as mere child’s play. It is, as Hegel puts it, no more than “the squabbling of self-willed children.” 38 Only the unhappy consciousness, finally, is able to acknowledge the torment that is entailed by this state of split and internal contradiction. It is “consciousness of itself as a dou- bled, merely contradictory being [Wesen],” 39 a being that is sus- pended in continuous oscillation between inside and outside, immanence and transcendence, singularity and universality, the finite and the infinite, this world and a world beyond, the hu- man and the divine. The unhappy consciousness is thus haunted by an inherent restlessness; whenever “it believes itself to have achieved victory and restful unity,” in one way or another, it is immediately expelled from its apparent repose. 40 In the Phenomenology of Spirit, the unhappy consciousness is dialectically overcome thanks to an “actual sacrifice,” the “sur- render of one’s own will” for the sake of a “universal will” that leads toward the realization of reason. 41 The knowledge of the absolute, or absolute knowledge, designates the direction of a final “reconciliation with itself.” 42 Wahl, however, extrapolates from the moment of the unhappy consciousness and conceives

37 Ibid., §205.

38 Ibid.

39 Ibid., §206, translation modified. It is, in other words, “for itself the doubled consciousness of itself as self-liberating, unchangeable, and self- identical, and of itself as absolutely self-confusing and self-inverting — and it is the consciousness of this contradiction within itself.”

40 Ibid., §207, translation modified.

41 Ibid., §230.

42 Ibid., §207.

gilles deleuze and the unhappy consciousness

of it as a universal structure of existential subjectivity (a gesture later repeated by Alexandre Kojève, who draws upon the dialec- tic of lord and bondsman, of master and slave, to provide a uni- versal structure of historical human subjectivity). 43 The unhap- py consciousness is thus understood, in short, as “consciousness as subject” tout court. 44 As Wahl puts it elsewhere, much later:

“There is only unhappy consciousness.” 45 Dialectics, then, is no guarantee for reconciliation, 46 and in this existential reading of the conditions of Hegel’s rationalism, the absolute itself remains “unhappy,” so to speak, internally “strained,” a juxtaposition of irresolvable contradictions. 47 All hope for reconciliation is ulti- mately deferred to mystical experience, and it is clear that in the last instance all consciousness must remain tragic. 48 Throughout the remainder of the century, and still today, many readers of Hegel have continued to focus on this tragic aspect of subjectivity, rejecting the idea of reconciliation and a closed system. 49 As Hyppolite noted, many of his contemporar- ies preferred

43 Cf. Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, ed. Allan Bloom, trans. James H. Nichols, Jr. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980).

44 Wahl, Le malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel, 112.

45 Jean Wahl, Human Existence and Transcendence, trans. William C. Hackett (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2016), 54; emphasis mine.

46 Here Wahl parts ways with Hegel: Although he stresses the importance of negativity and dialectics (with Plato remaining the better dialectician as compared to Hegel), he strongly opposes the idea of a closed system and defends the role of immediacy; cf. for instance Jean Wahl, “Itinéraire on- tologique,” in Les philosophes français d’aujourd’hui par eux-mêmes: Auto- biographie de la philosophie française contemporaine, eds. Gérard Deledalle and Denis Huisman (Paris: Centre de Documentation Universitaire, 1963), 58–59. For a helpful overview of Wahl’s biography and work, cf. the editors’ introduction “Existence, Experience, and Transcendence: An Introduc- tion to Jean Wahl” in Jean Wahl, Transcendence and the Concrete: Selected Writings, eds. Alan D. Schrift and Ian Alexander Moore, 1–31 (New York:

Fordham University Press, 2016).

47 Ibid., 113.

48 Ibid.

49 Cf. Bruce Baugh, French Hegel: From Surrealism to Postmodernism (New York: Routledge, 2003).

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what Hegel calls “unhappy consciousness” to what he calls “spirit.” They take up Hegel’s description of self-certainty which fails to be in-itself but which, nonetheless, exists only through its transcendence toward that in-itself; but they abandon Hegel when, according to him, specific self- consciousness — subjectivity — becomes universal self-con- sciousness — thingness — a movement through which being is posed as subject and subject is posed as being. They accept Hegel’s phenomenology but reject his ontology. 50

As the terminology indicates, this characterization was perhaps most importantly directed at Jean-Paul Sartre, for whom, in Be- ing and Nothingness, and with direct reference to Wahl (for both Hegel and Kierkegaard), the unhappy consciousness remained crucial; according to him, subjectivity is precisely a structure of perpetual unhappiness — “[h]uman reality […] is by nature an unhappy consciousness with no possibility of surpassing its un- happy state.” 51 The unhappy consciousness can hence be read as an (ultimately theological) figure located at the very core of the philosophies of existence, where the “refusal of synthesis” turns it into the archetypal form of subjectivity, “a condition from which there is no escape.” 52

“Why not Hegel?”

It was arguably the ubiquity of this idea of an unhappiness with- out escape — whether in Wahl, Sartre or Hyppolite — that pro- voked Deleuze’s “mercilessness” toward Hegel. 53 If Hegel was, at

50 Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, 204–5.

51 Cf. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenologi- cal Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), 90. As a young man, Deleuze was, together with his friend Michel Tournier, an ardent reader of Sartre, and despite a certain rift he still con- sidered him his “teacher” even in later years; cf. Deleuze, Desert Islands, 77–80; also cf. Giuseppe Bianco, “Deleuze before Deleuze: Humanism and Anti-Humanism (1943–1948),” forthcoming in Critical Enquiry.

52 Baugh, French Hegel, 6.

53 Cf. Deleuze, Desert Islands, 144.

gilles deleuze and the unhappy consciousness

that precise moment of his reception, a thinker of the unhappy consciousness, of negativity, of contradiction, as far as Deleuze was concerned, there could be no compromise, not even some kind of monstrous progeny, as with Kant and Bergson; Hegel remained the cypher for a philosophical “enterprise to ‘burden’ life” in all possible ways and “to inscribe death in life.” “Some- body,” Deleuze explained, “has to play the role of traitor.” 54 It is of course true that there are other important and perhaps more prominent aspects of Deleuze’s rejection of Hegel and He- gelianism, including the critique of monism and the internal- ity of relations in Empiricism and Subjectivity (itself adopted, by the way, from Wahl), 55 the general critique of the dialectic of opposition, contradiction, and negation in the review of Hyp- polite’s Logic and Existence, 56 the polemic against a negative conception of desire in the (Kojèvian) dialectic of master and slave in Nietzsche and Philosophy, 57 and the critique of infinite representation in Difference and Repetition. 58 And yet it can be argued that it is the interpretation of Hegelianism as a philoso- phy of the unhappy consciousness, although only found in a few scattered remarks, that necessitated the other critiques. From the perspective of Deleuze’s ethics of affects, Hegelianism pre- sented a particular philosophical pathology, a triumph of sad passions in thought that entailed an entire “becoming-reactive

54 Ibid. Regarding “monstrous” offspring, cf. Deleuze, Negotiations, 6.

55 Gilles Deleuze, Empiricism and Subjectivity: An Essay on Hume’s Theory of Human Nature, trans. Constantin V. Boundas (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991). It was in this regard that Deleuze would later praise Wahl as “the one who led the reaction against the dialectic when Hegel was in full vogue at the university” (Deleuze, quoted in Dosse, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, 110).

56 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 15–18; regarding this review and its contribution to the project of an “ontology of difference,” cf. Nathan Widder, “Thought after Dialectics: Deleuze’s Ontology of Sense,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 41 (2003): 451–76.

57 Cf. Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, passim.

58 Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 52–71; cf. also Henry Somers-Hall, Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation: Dialectics of Negation and Difference (Albany: SUNY Press, 2012).

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of the universe.” 59 Sadness, according to Deleuze, formed the affective basis of Hegelianism and the dialectic, subtending its logic and development: “Everywhere,” he claimed, “there are sad passions; the unhappy consciousness is the subject of the whole dialectic.” 60

Sad passions: From unhappy consciousness to bad conscience

In this context, one can understand why Deleuze asserted, in Nietzsche and Philosophy, that “[t]he discovery dear to the dia- lectic is the unhappy consciousness, the deepening, the re-so- lution and glorification of the unhappy consciousness and its resources,” 61 even though Nietzsche himself never mentions the term. In perfect agreement with Wahl’s reading, Hegel is un- derstood as interpreting existence “from the standpoint of the unhappy consciousness,” which, according to Deleuze, “is only the Hegelian version of the bad conscience.” 62 Thanks to a ho- monymy in French, Deleuze can carry out, almost by sleight of hand, a conceptual shift from a Hegelian conscience malheureuse to a Nietzschean mauvaise conscience. Though bold, this shift is very useful for gaining a better understanding of Deleuze’s cri- tique of Hegelianism on the grounds of its “sad passions.” “Bad conscience,” according to Deleuze, “is the conscience that multiplies its pain,” the conscience “which has found a technique for manufacturing pain by turning active force back against itself: the squalid workshop,” or the workshop, one might add, of the labor of the negative. 63 It is an apparatus for the production of a particular form of subjectivity, the unhappy consciousness, which in turn implies a specific invention, the invention of a “new sense,” “an internal sense, an inward sense.64 This sense, as that of an abyss, an irreducible tension at the core

59 Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 196.

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid., 159.

62 Ibid., 19, 132.

63 Ibid., 129.

64 Ibid.

gilles deleuze and the unhappy consciousness

of the subject, is ultimately a sense for pain, its “multiplication” and “internalization.” 65 As Hegel wrote, the unhappy conscious- ness (or in fact self-consciousness as such) is “only the pain or grief of Spirit that struggles, but without success, out towards objectivity.” 66 And while Hegel, once again, conceived of this pain, this grief, this suffering, as no more than a passing stage in the (auto-)biography of spirit, after Wahl it remained the un- surpassable internal tension or contradiction that formed the condition of all subjectivity. For Deleuze, this form of subjectivity, constituted at the surface of a strange economy of sad passions in which “pain is healed by manufacturing yet more pain, by internalizing it still further,” remains invariably passive, even reactive, constantly slipping toward the inaction of ressentiment. 67 The unhappy consciousness, part and parcel, then, of a genealogy of moral- ity, seems utterly “powerless to create new ways of thinking and feeling” — with the exception, of course, of new forms of pain and ways of suffering. 68 Wallowing in its despair, its suspension between the singular and the universal, it cannot but perpetu- ally encounter itself as an other, and an other as itself; its basic structure is constituted by “bad encounters” with itself and/as an other, as something that “do[es] not agree with it and tend[s] to decompose it, to destroy it.” 69 What results is the existential despair of an existence that is essentially painful. At this point, Deleuze’s anti-Hegelian Nietzsche merges with his somewhat peculiar Spinoza, 70 and it becomes clear that he studies the unhappy consciousness — and with it the (quite abstract) whole of Hegelianism — from an ethical perspective,

65 Ibid., 132.

66 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, §673, trans. modified.

67 Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 130. Deleuze refers to Friedrich Nietz- sche, Genealogy of Morals, III.15.

68 Ibid., 159.

69 Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. Robert Hurley (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988), 100.

70 Cf. ibid., 17, where Deleuze speaks of Spinoza’s “major resemblances with Nietzsche.”

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which boils down to a generalized ethology that is predomi- nantly interested in “the compositions of relations or capaci- ties between different things,” 71 their collective “capacities for affecting and being affected,” in short: their power of acting. 72 Unhappiness, and this has been implicit throughout the present text, is here treated as synonymous with sadness, and sadness, according to Spinoza and Deleuze, is nothing other than “the diminution of the power of acting.” 73 Within the dual frame- work of a philosophical symptomatology and an ethics of af- fects, then, Hegelianism appears as a clinical case. A movement ostensibly based on the irreducible unhappiness of an individu- al consciousness, an existential ontology rooted in sad passions, is considered inherently incapacitating; “sad passions,” Deleuze declares, “always amount to impotence.” 74 This impotence, moreover, a pathology that testifies to the subjection to a reign of sad passions, a reign of the negative, has political implications. “There is no unhappy consciousness which is not also man’s enslavement” 75 :

Everything that involves sadness serves tyranny and oppres- sion. Everything that involves sadness must be denounced as bad, as something that separates us from our power of acting:

not only remorse and guilt, not only meditation on death, but even hope, even security, which signify powerlessness. 76

From Deleuze’s point of view, a philosophy, an ethics, a life based on the sad passions of the unhappy consciousness was tantamount to a form of death and had to be avoided and re-

71 Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, 126.

72 Ibid., 124.

73 Ibid., 50. Cf. also Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Zone Books, 1990), 274.

74 Ibid., 28.

75 Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 190.

76 Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, 72. Deleuze refers to Baruch Spino-

za, Ethics, IV.P67 and IV.P47; cf. also Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy,


gilles deleuze and the unhappy consciousness

sisted. Hegelianism became the target of his polemic precisely because it was presented as a “monstrous enterprise to submit life to negativity, the enterprise of ressentiment and unhappy consciousness.” 77 His own philosophical enterprise, on the other hand, was thus committed to learning how not to fall prey, as so many of his contemporaries did, to such a “philosophy of death,” as Kojève called it, 78 a form of metaphysical melancholia due to which “[o]ur power is immobilized, and can no longer do any- thing but react.” 79

Joyful passions

Accordingly, Deleuze, as mentioned before, sought to propose a vital and affirmative conception of philosophy. Philosophers, like artists, had to be “civilization’s doctors,” according to Nietz- sche, 80 and hence it was their task to find, to invent a remedy for an unhappy philosophy based on sad passions inhibiting action. This remedy was of course a philosophy of joyful pas- sions that catalyzed action. If sadness was “the diminution of the power of acting,” joy had to be, according to another Spinozist formulation, “the increase of the power of acting.” For Deleuze, therefore, “only joy is worthwhile, joy remains, bringing us near to action, and to the bliss of action.” 81 It should be clarified, how- ever, that this joy is the joy of association, always transversal, the joy of becoming as opposed to the sadness of being (which is ultimately the sadness of the impossibility of mere being). Within Deleuze’s Spinozist and Nietzschean “clinic,” a joyful existence hence presents an antidote to the apparent sickness and sadness of the dialectic and the unhappy consciousness. It is only by vir-

77 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 144, translation modified.

78 Alexandre Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel: Leçons sur la Phéno- ménologie de l’Esprit professées de 1933 à 1939 à l’École des Hautes Études, ed. Raymond Queneau (Paris: Gallimard, 1947), 539. The shortened Eng- lish translation does not contain this expression.

79 Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, 101.

80 Deleuze, Negotiations, 141.

81 Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, 28.

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tue of joyful passions that “our power expands, compounds with the power of the other, and unites with the loved object;” 82 be- cause of joyful passions we might eventually pass from passion to action, and only then can “we ourselves become causes of our own affects and masters of our adequate perceptions,” only then will “our body [gain] access to the power of acting, and our mind to the power of comprehending, which is its way of acting.” 83 Joy, in this specific sense, is presented as a way out of the sadness of enslavement, out of the enslavement of sadness. Deleuze’s critique of the unhappy consciousness and of He- gelianism more generally is therefore, once again, not at all a purely theoretical endeavor. It is a particular and historically specific intervention regarding the way in which philosophy is practiced. Philosophy, according to Deleuze, should never be a mournful matter of contradiction and negation, lost in the cir- cuits of representation. If the philosophy of French mid-century Hegelianism was, according to Foucault, “presented as the way to achieve a rational understanding of the tragic as it was ex- perienced by the generation immediately preceding ours, and still threatening for our own,” the new philosophy sought af- ter by Deleuze was to be a joyful concern, a “gay science,” to use Nietzsche’s term, a question of life, of affirmation and of difference. 84 But this particular intervention on behalf of a dif- ferent philosophy (a philosophy of difference) was also rooted in a particular conception of ethics. For Deleuze, thought and speculation were, despite their indisputable autonomy, insepa- rable from the milieu that provided their conditions on the one hand and the habitat that they shaped on the other. Therefore, the great question regarding the operations of philosophy had to be posed in terms of ethics as ethology, and was, in this sense,

82 Ibid., 101. Deleuze refers to Spinoza, Ethics, IV.P18.

83 Ibid., 104.

84 Cf. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, xxi: “The time is coming when it will hardly be possible to write a book of philosophy as it has been done for so long: ‘Ah! the old style…’ The search for new means of philosophical expression was begun by Nietzsche and must be pursued today in relation to the renewal of certain other arts, such as the theatre or the cinema.”

gilles deleuze and the unhappy consciousness

also a pragmatic question. 85 Even when it came to an allegedly theoretical practice like philosophy, Deleuze was at least im- plicitly concerned with its non- and meta-philosophical impli- cations, with what it enables to do and what it prevents from doing. Philosophy was thus conceived not as the guardian of a truth given in advance (for instance the truth of reconciliation or of its impossibility), but as a field of experimentation and of the production of new powers (Spinoza), values (Nietzsche), or forms of life (Foucault). “Concepts are inseparable from affects, i.e., from the powerful effects they exert on our life, and per- cepts, i.e., the new ways of seeing or perceiving they provoke in us.” 86 This phrase, though taken from a much later text, reaches to the very core of Deleuze’s philosophy of philosophy, and it is from this point of view that one can understand the critique of Hegelianism throughout his work. His philosophical argu- ments against Hegel, whether directed against monism and internal relations, against negativity and contradiction, against the dialectic of master and slave, against infinite representation, or finally, as in this case, against the unhappy consciousness, formed part of a resistance against the implicit and explicit poli- tics and ethics (or morality) of a particular Hegelian philosophy. For Deleuze, they were part of a search for a different form of life, a form of life that refuses to let itself be closed in, a form of life shaped through an affirmation of difference. Hence the “practical problem” that Deleuze identified when distinguish- ing Spinoza’s Ethics from a morality: “How does one arrive at a maximum of joyful passions?, proceeding from there to free and active feelings (although our place in Nature seems to condemn

85 On the relation between speculation and practice in Deleuze’s philosophy, cf. Sjoerd van Tuinen, “Deleuze: Speculative and Practical Philosophy,” in Genealogies of Speculation: Materialism and Subjectivity since Structural- ism, eds. Armen Avanessian and Suhail Malik, 93–114 (London: Blooms- bury, 2016).

86 Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975–1995, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames Hodges and Michael Taormina (New York: MIT Press, 2006), 238.

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us to bad encounters and sadnesses).” 87 The world may indeed be full of tensions, as Wahl asserted with the young Hegel, or full of forces, but those must be thought outside of the ultimately representational logic of sadness in order to be made creative. Like art and life, philosophy, for Deleuze, was a matter of experi- mentation and creation, of the creation of concepts of course, but also of joyful passions.

87 Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, 28.


To Have Done with Judgment of “Reason”:

Deleuze’s Aesthetic Ontology

Samantha Bankston

Friedrich Nietzsche, in “‘Reason’ in Philosophy” from Twilight of the Idols, alerts us to the pitfalls of a metaphysical history that grounds itself on a fundamental error of temporality:

Change, mutation, becoming in general were formerly taken as proof of appearance, as a sign of the presence of something which led us astray. Today, on the contrary, we see ourselves as it were entangled in error, necessitated to error, to precisely the extent that our prejudice in favor of reason compels us to posit unity, identity, duration, substance, cause, materiality, being; however sure we may be, on the basis of a strict reck- oning, that error is to be found here. 1

These errors of Reason — unity, identity, mechanistic causality, and permanence — erect a tradition of judgment in the history of philosophy. The fundamental error of Reason is temporal in nature, where discontinuous states of Being supplant continuous processes of becoming. For Nietzsche, this amounts to a subor- dination of sense to a moralistic framework that never shakes

1 Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, trans. Michael Tanner (London:

Penguin Classics, 1990), 47.

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off the onto-theological hangover of the Ancient Greeks, save Heraclitus. 2 Reason in the history of philosophy is a mortifica- tion of thought — concepts are lifeless artifacts of the past. If we eradicate Reason from philosophy, then what are we doing? As Gilles Deleuze exclaims, “We’re looking for ‘vitality.’” 3 Deleuze takes seriously the errors of Reason, as outlined by Nietzsche, and rather than do away with metaphysics, he shatters the pillars of Reason with his critique of the dogmatic “image of thought.” Just as the Signifier dies along with God, judgment in philosophy dies along with Reason. In this essay, I will illumi- nate the concept of becoming that Deleuze uses to reconfigure the history of metaphysics along the lines of Nietzsche’s critique of Reason. As the temporal logic of becoming in Deleuze splits into the becoming of pure events and the becoming of sensa- tion, a philosophy of affects corrects the errors which arose from Reason. Ultimately, Deleuze creates a metaphysical system beyond good and evil, replacing the dogmatic errors of Reason with the aesthetic potential of the new. Using the centrifugal force of the eternal return of difference, Deleuze’s philosophical collage of the likes of Spinoza, Hume, Leibniz, Borges, Proust, Bergson, Simondon, Duns Scotus, and others forms a universe of immanence that is at base a meta- physical system in concert with Nietzsche’s thought. The posi- tive formulation of Nietzsche’s critique of Reason is a pre-indi- vidual world of affects where all identities are merely an effect of the unconditioned flux of force. In the beautiful aphorism that closes The Will to Power, Nietzsche depicts his anti-philosophi- cal world at odds with the history of metaphysics. When he asks,

2 “Philosophy in the only way I still allow it to stand, as the most general form of history, as an attempt somehow to describe Heraclitean becoming and to abbreviate it into signs (so to speak, to translate and mummify it into a kind of illusory being).” Friedrich Nietzsche, Writings from the Late Notebooks, ed. Rüdiger Bittner, trans. Kate Sturge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 26.

3 Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts: 1953–1974, ed. David Lapou- jade, trans. Michael Taormina (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004), 142.

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“And do you know what ‘the world’ is to me?” 4 we discover a play of forces in contradiction, both one and many, perpetually in-between, and eternally recurring without a goal but the act of recurrence itself. Nietzsche begins the description of his Dionysian world with an “AND,” where the power of the false breaks with the logic of identity, the principle of sufficient reason, the law of excluded middle, and the law of non-contradiction. Furthermore, nega- tion and nothingness play no role in Nietzsche’s world, for all forms, structures, institutions, and things are undone through the eternal return of difference and the unhinging of efficient, formal, material, and final causation. Pre-subjective forces form multiplicities that are always in-between, “anchoring” all indi- viduation in chaotic flux, painting an aesthetic ontology of pure intensities beyond the reifying logic of Reason. After Nietzsche, it becomes unthinkable to do metaphysics in the same way. To invent a new and rigorous metaphysics requires the elaboration of a complex set of processes and (anti-)logic that systematizes all of the features of Nietzsche’s Dionysian world without resort- ing to mechanisms of transcendence, and this is precisely what Deleuze accomplishes. The first step in developing a new image of thought is holding all processes to the light of becoming, to maintain the primacy of the unconditioned as the driving force of a new metaphysics. When Deleuze attacks the four shackles of representational thought (analogy, opposition, resemblance, and identity), he si- multaneously opens the way for an alternative image of thought. Each of the shackles can be traced to a fundamental temporal error: the attempt to conceive of change as a structural deriva- tive of the immutable. Henri Bergson and Nietzsche converge on the criticism of mechanistic causality and its employment of “reason” to freeze pure flux in order to construct an image of becoming. Deleuze connects these criticisms and asks how

4 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, ed. Walter Kaufmann, trans. Walter Kaufmann and Reginald J. Hollingdale (New York: Random House, 1967),


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a counter-causal process appropriate to the concept of becom- ing might be created. Of the list of errors in reason provided by Nietzsche: unity is replaced by multiplicity; identity is replaced by difference, while essences are replaced by assemblages or haecceities; duration (which means something akin to perma- nence for Nietzsche) is replaced by instantaneity; substance is replaced by virtual relation; mechanistic causality is replaced by quasi-causality; materiality is replaced by intensity; and, throw- ing all the features of this new anti-reason in motion: being is replaced by becoming. 5 In accordance with Nietzsche’s critique of Reason, Deleuze enlists artists and philosophers who shake the very foundation of a philosophical history which is plagued by temporal distor- tion. In “On Nietzsche and the Image of Thought” he states, “Hume, Bergson, and Proust interest me so much because in their work can be found profound elements for a new image of thought. There’s something extraordinary in the way they tell us: thinking means something else than what you believe.” 6 All of the thinkers invoked in Deleuze’s revolutionary image of thought radically rethink temporality. They agree that Under- standing cannot produce an encounter with becoming — it is only through encounters in sensation that we are thrown into its chaotic flux. In Deleuze’s temporal collage, David Hume provides the system of relations arising from a new image of thought; this is the principle of exteriority, which encourages the conjunctive proliferation of pre-individual intensities below the logic of the Same seen in re-presentation. In this revised, pre-individual, nomadic image of thought Deleuze announces the pitfalls of representation and its reified structure of time, and categorical conditions are cast aside in favor of an explo- ration of the unconditioned. The reading that Deleuze gives to Nietzsche’s philosophical project in the following passage can also be applied to Deleuze: “For Nietzsche, it is about getting something through in every past, present, and future code,

5 Ibid.

6 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 139.

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something which does not and will not let itself be recoded.” 7 That which repeats throughout past, present, and future, yet es- capes all coding, is difference, the new, in short: becoming. Nietzsche’s Dionysian world directly contends with Reason and the use of judgment in representational Being. In Differ- ence and Repetition, the categorical application of judgment is decried through its two uses of distribution and hierarchization. Distribution partitions concepts through the use of common sense, hierarchization measures subjects through primary or good sense. 8 Difference is neutralized through categorical dis- tribution, and all categorical thought — that of Aristotle, Kant, and even Hegel — implies the philosophy of judgment. Subse- quently, it is impossible to think of the unconditioned, or the uncoded, when employing judgment, since judgment retains identity in the concept by using analogy to relate to being. 9 The error in judgment emerges from the immobilizing mechanisms of chronological, homogeneous time, which reifies becoming in an attempt to categorize it. Consequently, an aesthetic ontology is needed to counter the categorical logic of judgment, and this is accomplished through the construction of a concept of be- coming that deploys the generative “both/and” in its process of individuation. Deleuze’s concept of becoming is pivotal to his metaphysics, yet it is often misunderstood or invoked in a vague sense that conflates its divergent processes. Mapping “becoming” across Deleuze’s works involves wading through terminological vari- ance (e.g., becoming, difference, becomings, Aion, becoming- mad, becoming-woman, eternal return of difference, becoming- imperceptible, blocs of becoming), tracking the regional logics that form the ontological neighborhoods in his texts, and track- ing the points of convergence between being and time. With respect to the latter, Deleuze’s thought pushes ontology to the

7 Ibid., 253.

8 Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York:

Columbia University Press, 1994), 33.

9 Ibid.

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limit, even farther than Martin Heidegger, causing the distinc- tion between ontology and temporality to collapse. This collapse is admitted outright by Deleuze in an interview with Jean-Noël Vuarnet: “Yes, I finished the book — on repetition and differ- ence (they’re the same thing) as the actual categories of our thought.” 10 In an ontology premised by absolute becoming, that which was an “is” necessarily becomes an “and,” becomes tem- porality itself. In other work 11 I have delineated Deleuze’s revolutionary no- tion of becoming as it deploys two divergent modes of becom- ing, which he hints at in What Is Philosophy?: sensory becoming and absolute becoming, the latter Deleuze and Félix Guattari term “conceptual becoming.” 12 Sensory becoming falls under an umbrella of terms throughout his canon: at the beginning of his career his use of sensory becoming is often referred to simply as “becoming,” and later it is known as “becomings,” “a becoming,” “becoming-mad,” “sensory-bloc,” and so on. Having mapped the processes of becoming across Deleuze’s works, the double nature of becoming is made clear. Not only is every instant dis- tributed into the opposing streams of the past and the future, there are two distinct modes of becoming at work in Deleuze’s ontology. Sensory becoming functions through what he calls “a molec- ular memory, but as a factor of integration into a majoritarian or molar system.” 13 This mode of becoming pertains to sensation, and is an appropriation of late Bergsonian duration (duration without consciousness), yet endowed with the telescoping pow- er of sensation witnessed in Proustian reminiscence. Deleuze

10 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 142, emphasis in original.

11 Samantha Bankston, Deleuze and Becoming(s) (London: Bloomsbury Publications, 2015).

12 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tom- linson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994),


13 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Min- nesota Press, 1987), 294.

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follows Bergson in distinguishing duration from becoming. In Bergsonism, Deleuze notes that duration is a mode of becom- ing when he states that duration is “a becoming that endures, a change that is substance itself.” 14 By combining an enduring be- coming and substance, Deleuze redefines the materiality of the present according to the Bergsonian model of internal change, and consequently, he redefines substance as a relationship in the process of becoming; substance is replaced by intensive process in materiality. Thus through Bergsonian duration, or what later is termed sensory becoming, Deleuze replaces the notion of sub- stance with the self-differing relation. Not only is becoming the vehicle that produces what we perceive as substance in the lived present, but Deleuze also leaves us a clue pertaining to the mul- tiplicity of the concept of becoming by writing “a becoming.” 15 This mode of becoming subverts the chronological present by retaining a molecular memory that disorients all organization, and forms blocs of coexistence within sensation. Sensory be- coming is a virtual multiplicity that expresses the logic of as- semblages. In other words, it is the subversive temporality of the depth of bodies. For Deleuze, duration signifies the ontological memory of the pure past. In the chapter entitled “1730: Becom- ing-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible” in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari prankishly interpose “memory” and “becoming,” and then they reveal that “[w]her- ever we used the word ‘memories’ in the preceding pages, we were wrong to do so; we meant to say ‘becoming,’ we were saying becoming.” 16 This intentional erasure distinguishes molar from molecular memory. Sensory becoming is not anti-memory, only anti-molar-memory. Becomings endure, cohering through on- tological memory, which is at the level of the molecular. The individuating process of ontological memory — the memory of becomings — is expressed by Deleuze in terms of Proustian

14 Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habber- jam (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 37.

15 Emphasis is mine.

16 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 294.

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reminiscence and is a supplemental entrance into Bergson’s and Marcel Proust’s notion of the pure past. Deleuze writes, “to re- member is to create, is to reach that point where the associative chain breaks, leaps over the constituted individual, is transferred to the birth of an individuating world.17 The process of creation that arises from ontological memory is the code breaking logic (or “antilogos”) of sensory becoming whose molecular dura- tions ignite individuation beneath the representation of entities, subjects, and objects. This is not the memory of a molar subject, one constructed by an act of re-presentation. Opposed to what he calls “molar subjects,” the differenciated becoming in sensa- tion is a pre-subjective molecular collectivity and is consistent with Deleuze’s re-appropriation of the multiplicity of duration. 18 When Deleuze speaks in terms of a becoming, or becomings, he is speaking of a concept of becoming that unfolds serially along the points of molecular duration. As opposed to sensory becom- ing, absolute becoming is the immaterial mode of becoming, the eternal return of difference. As was the case with sensory becoming, absolute becoming is subject to terminological vari- ance across Deleuze’s works. The most common formulations of the concept appear as either “the eternal return,” “the pure and empty form of time,” or “Aion.” The temporal logic of absolute becoming differs in kind from sensory becoming precisely on the axis of memory. When developing the notion of the eternal return, Deleuze explains that it is the being of becoming. He, of course, does not mean Being, as understood in Nietzsche’s errors of Reason,

17 Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs, trans. Richard Howard (Minneapolis:

University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 111.

18 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 275. Sensory becoming involves a molecular composition that defies the effectuated causality of representation. Molecular becoming is connected to the “pathology of duration,” whereby the relationship established between two things en- courages the exchange of their intensive features, or their molecules. “Yes, all becomings are molecular: the animal, flower, or stone one becomes are molecular collectivities, haecceities, not molar subjects, objects, or form that we know from the outside and recognize from experience, through science, or by habit.”

deleuze’s aesthetic ontology

but something else entirely. For Deleuze and Nietzsche, Being is overturned by becoming, and the eternal return is the uncoded virtual relation that is in-between being. Throughout Deleuze’s works, but particularly in Nietzsche and Philosophy, it is clear that what returns is the act of returning itself. The eternal return as the pure and empty form of time is the being of becoming, fusing temporality and ontology. Deleuze himself remarks, “As we have seen, the condition of the action by default does not return; the condition of the agent by metamorphosis does not return; all that returns, the eternal return, is the unconditioned in the product.” 19 The unconditioned in the product is not itself a product; instead of being static, it is the differential relation and pure process. Furthermore, it is the selectivity of the eternal return that keeps the first two syntheses, present and past, from returning. Building upon his elaboration of the eternal return in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze describes absolute becoming in Desert Islands as follows:

It is the law of a world without being, without unity, without identity. Far from presupposing the One or the Same, the eter- nal return constitutes the only unity of the multiple as such, the only identity of what differs: coming back is the only “be- ing” of becomings. 20

Thus, absolute becoming fractures identity, substance, perma- nence, and materiality along Nietzsche’s Dionysian lines. Noth- ing that existed in actual form returns in the third synthesis of time: the future — neither partially nor wholly. All associative chains of memory break, enacting a repetition of ontological forgetting. Deleuze accentuates the necessity of active forgetting in the dissolution of identities through absolute becoming. He takes note of Pierre Klossowski’s interpretation of the eternal return,

19 Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 297.

20 Deleuze, Desert Islands, 124.

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which moves from the act of willing to becoming-other. 21 The chain of duration (molecular memory) is broken through the movement of the eternal return, which is the dissimulation of absolute becoming. Deleuze implicates the forgetfulness of ab- solute becoming when he states that the eternal return consti- tutes the only unity of the world in its repetition and is “the only identity of a world which has no ‘same’ at all except through repetition.” 22 He agrees with Klossowski’s (and Michel Fou- cault’s) assessment that the death of God necessarily implies the death of the self, which is revealed through the active for- getfulness of becoming. The dissolution of identities ignites the break of durational becoming through active forgetfulness at the ontological level. Ontological forgetfulness is not restricted to consciousness, or to the selectivity of thought, but is an inte- gral aspect of becoming. Klossowski claims that “[f]orgetting thus raises eternal becoming and the absorption of all identity to the level of being.” 23 The forgetfulness of becoming is a neces- sary condition for the enactment of the eternal return, as well as its dissolution of forms and identities. Deleuze appropriates the representational forgetfulness on the surface level of forgetting in Klossowski and injects it into the pre-individual movement of absolute becoming. The ontological forgetfulness of absolute becoming mimics Nietzsche’s call toward active forgetting in the affirmative creation of the future.

21 The following passage on Klossowski demonstrates the confluence of the will to power and the eternal return as effectively undoing the opposition between the one and the many. The connection to willing and becoming- other reappears in Deleuze’s ontology as the relationship between the

manifest levels of the eternal return in willing and the latent levels of the return in pre-subjective chaos. “It is in this sense that Mr. Klossowski wanted to show us a world of intense fluctuations in the Will to power, where identities are lost, and where each one cannot want itself without wanting all the other possibilities, without becoming innumerable ‘others,’ without apprehending itself as a fortuitous moment, whose very chance implies the necessity of the whole series” (ibid., 122).

22 Ibid., 123.

23 Pierre Klossowski, “Nietzsche’s Experience of the Eternal Return,” in The New Nietzsche, ed. David B. Allison, 107–20 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985),


deleuze’s aesthetic ontology

In addition to its primordial features of active forgetting and selectivity of being, Deleuze formulates absolute becoming (or the eternal return) in terms of intensive quantity. Rejecting in- terpretations of Nietzsche that ascribe purely qualitative read- ings to force, Deleuze posits a notion of intensive quantity as early as Nietzsche and Philosophy. Rather than forfeit quantity to chronometric homogeneous measure, he argues for the ex- istence of intensive quantity in Nietzsche’s thought. Thus ab- solute becoming is understood to be the differential relation of intensive quantities. A theory of intensive quantity installs a precise mathematical model into the notion of force in Nietz- sche’s philosophy. Whenever Nietzsche criticizes the tendency of science to reduce qualitative difference to extensive quantities of equal measure, he is calling for an understanding of force as quantitative difference. Qualitative difference always includes a quantitative difference, and this notion of intensive quantitative difference is central to Deleuze’s theory of absolute becoming:

“Difference in quantity is the essence of force and of the relation of force to force.” 24 Conceiving of difference through processes of intensive quantity opens up a theory of becoming that is prem- ised on relations and not fixed terms. This is the point at which Deleuze enlists Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz into his elaboration of absolute becoming. He restructures the Leibnizian calculus through processes of immanence and thus provides a founda- tion for a quantitative theory of absolute becoming, using a re- vised theory of Nietzschean force. Because Deleuze articulates this force as intensive quantity, he is able to plug intensities into differential equations, restructuring the concept of becom- ing — both sensory and absolute — through the infinitesimal calculus. In Deleuze’s Leibniz, transcendence and harmony are replaced with immanence and chaos, thus deploying the power of the false, whereby Deleuze provides a Nietzschean reading of Leibniz via Jorge Luis Borges. Where incompossibilities are able to exist in the same world, virtually, the eternal return of

24 Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 43.

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absolute becoming produces a garden of forking paths. Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths,” where the protagonist is able to

activate infinite unselected potential futures that exist in the vir- tual realm simultaneously, serves as a model of incompossible lines of becoming, or divergent syntheses of time. 25 Absolute be- coming is the process of bifurcation that splits the past and the future, causing time to fork virtually, simultaneously subverting the chronological present in a mad process of material becom- ing in sensation. In terms of Deleuze’s appropriation of Leibniz’s infinitesimal calculus, absolute becoming refers to the differential relation, while sensory becoming refers to the integration. As Simon Duffy explains, integration is not only the summation of dif- ferentials, but also the inverse of the differential relation. 26 In

a stroke of brilliance, Deleuze formulates both modes of be-

coming as inversions of one another with respect to Leibniz’s differential calculus. Absolute becoming as the model of the differential relation has zero duration and is the paradoxical

sidestepping of the present in its nomadic distribution of sin- gularities throughout the virtual. Meanwhile, sensory becoming

is the model of integration, the summation of differentials of

molecular memory in sensation. The question then arises as to how these two ontological mirrors interact, what are the vir- tual processes that connect them? Clearly, any form of causality elaborated in the history of metaphysics will be inadequate to a purely immanent ontology. Instead of dismissing causality as an illusory production in representational thought that expels dif-

ference, Deleuze seeks to reconstruct causality according to the heterogeneous features of becoming. 27 He elaborates his theory

25 Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths,” in Labyrinths, trans. Donald A. Yates (New York: New Directions Publishing, 2007), 19–29.

26 Simon Duffy, “The Logic of Expression in Deleuze’s Expressionism and Philosophy: Spinoza: A Strategy of Engagement,” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 12, no. 1 (March 2004): 47–60.

27 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 172. In this sense, Deleuze’s innovative counter-effectuating causality

deleuze’s aesthetic ontology

of quasi-causality in The Logic of Sense, and the notion hardly appears elsewhere. The quasi-cause is the untimely operator be- tween absolute becoming of the eternal return and sensory be- coming of molecular memory. Quasi-causality differs from oth- er forms of causality in its distributive power of difference and its ability to create an ultimate divide between the cause and the effect. It does not function along the lines of material, formal, efficient, or final causes. Furthermore, as pointed out by Daniel W. Smith, quasi-causality differs from the medieval categories of emanative and transitive causalities. 28 Deleuze borrows the notion of immanent causation from Spinoza, but maintains a Nietzschean critique of substance in the process. Smith explains this appropriation when he says,

In Spinoza’s immanent causality, not only does the cause re- main in itself, but its effect remains “immanate” within it, rather than emanating from it. The effect (mode) remains in its cause no less than the cause remains in itself (substance). 29

However, as Smith points out, Deleuze eliminates Spinoza’s sub- stance, making ontology purely modal. A modal, or differential, world forces Deleuze to re-conceptualize the content of imma- nent causation. Since there is no God, no transcendental signi- fier, difference is immanent to the cause itself, which results in

can be seen as a tribute to Nietzsche. Deleuze reconstructs causality to correct the criticisms launched by Nietzsche. The imagistic construction of causality, and its elimination of difference and becoming, is absorbed into an anti-causal causality in Deleuze. Nietzsche ruthlessly critiqued the retroactive projection of cause and effect into the flux of nature. We see this salient criticism often in his works, particularly in The Gay Science. “We have uncovered a manifold one-after-another where the naïve man and inquirer of older cultures only saw two separate things ‘Cause’ and ‘ef- fect’ is what one says; but we have merely perfected the image of becoming without reaching beyond the image or behind it.”

28 Daniel W. Smith, “The Doctrine of Univocity: Deleuze’s ontology of immanence,” in Deleuze and Religion, ed. Mary Briden, 167–83 (London:

Routledge, 2001).

29 Ibid., 174.

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a distributive destruction of the logic of identity. Deleuze paints

a universe that repeats the unconditioned of the cause in the

effect when he eliminates all transcendence in immanent causa- tion. As he explains, “The autonomy of the effect is thus defined initially by its difference in nature from the cause; in the second place, it is defined by its relation to the quasi-cause.” 30 The effect is synonymous with the event and is bestowed full autonomy by the operation of the counter-causal process. There are no longer real causes in the virtual, only effects. As the effect dif- fers in kind from corporeal bodies in mixture, it is independent of the cause in the classical sense and is impenetrable, impas- sive, neutral, and devoid of qualitative distinction. Despite the impassibility of events (also called singularities, extraordinary points of inflection), they perpetually resonate with other events through the series of effects produced in the nexus of becom- ing. The paradoxical series, or lines, proliferated through the absolute becoming of Aion, fragment the separation between past and future, where the quasi-cause nomadically distributes singularities in no fewer than two temporal series. In an attempt at speculation, Deleuze presents the inner me- chanics of a virtual, immanent plane as the resonance of diverg- ing and converging series produced through the proliferating

force of becoming. The quasi-cause illuminates a system con- nected through difference. Events do not have external causes, and they communicate not through admixture but through the differential distribution of nomadic singularities. Deleuze’s complex concept of quasi-causality retains the Dionysian world of sensation and rejects the immobilizing categories of Being. All relations occur externally through the operation of the qua- si-cause, rather than internally, which would lead to the static mechanism inherent to the logic of identity. As such, the quasi-cause extracts singularities from the pass- ing present and distributes them in a double movement that

30 Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin V. Boundas, trans. Mark Lester and Charles Stivale (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990),


deleuze’s aesthetic ontology

constructs events. Since absolute becoming functions accord- ing to the logic of the paradoxical instant — the self-eluding moment that is never present — it is simultaneously more con- tracted than the smallest unit of actual time and more elongated

than the entire circle of actuality. The present instantaneously gives rise to the event, and the truth of the event doubles — as

a phantasm of the broken present (the past), and as the con-

stellation of singularities that may be actualized in the present

(the future). That is not to say that the event, once actualized, resembles its virtual counterpart, but rather that its movement

is automatically doubled in the extracting moment of the qua-

si-cause. Deleuze remarks on the distancing mechanism of the quasi-cause when he writes,

But the event nonetheless retains an eternal truth upon the line of the Aion, which divides it eternally into a proximate past and an imminent future. The Aion endlessly subdivides the event and pushes away past as well as future, without ever rendering them less urgent. 31

It is important to recall that the pure event never happens but is

a confluence of forces, or jets of singularities that are perpetu-

ally displaced by the instantaneous machine of becoming. The garden of forking paths in Borges serves as a model for the line of Aion. Eternally proliferating incompossible series continue to fork as the empty form of time: the future. Depending upon the neighborhoods of proximity, one may initiate a line of flight that activates, say, a Karl Marx effect, which is actualized in a way that was never actually lived by Marx himself. The indi- viduation of singularities along the line of Aion informs actual effects, which in turn reorients their virtual counterparts. The genesis of virtual events is static, as it divests all singularities of memory trace, while the virtual relations in sensation are char- acterized by a spatiotemporal dynamism of molecular duration.

Meanwhile, both modes of becoming contingently destabilize

31 Ibid., 63.

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individuated forms in the actual. And although Deleuze and Guattari focus more on the depth of bodies, or sensory becom- ing, in A Thousand Plateaus, it is essential to understand the integral relationship between the becoming of events, or what they will later discuss as “conceptual becoming,” and the becom- ing of sense. Too often, these two divergent processes of becom- ing are conflated in the secondary literature, which results in an “otherworldly” misreading of Deleuze. This very conflation is the central error in both Slavoj Žižek’s and Alain Badiou’s mis- characterization of Deleuze as a philosopher of the One. The absence of negation and lack does not result in monism. The processes of becoming diverge, whether they involve sensation or concepts, and although absolute flux applies to both, this plays out in vastly different ways. Think of the ritornello, a con- cept invented by Deleuze and Guattari, which is the eternal re- turn oriented toward sensation, where baroque whirls and folds repeat as a matter of expression. Therefore, in sensation, the Nietzschean world of intensities unfettered by causal relations is maintained. Nietzsche’s disavowal of “causality” is also meta- physically maintained in absolute becoming, the appropriation of Nietzsche’s eternal return for the sake of difference. The two opposing temporal features of memory and forgetting are differ- ent tendencies of the same concept of becoming, since becom- ing is a multiplicity that corresponds to the plane upon which it is operating. In the realm of materiality we have the subversive sensory becoming of ontological memory; in the realm of ideas we have absolute becoming of ontological forgetting, yet the two are inexorably co-generative. Deleuze makes forgetfulness ontological by posing it against the category of negation in representational thought. The eter- nal return escapes the trappings of negation through the force of active forgetting. Nietzsche, and therefore also Deleuze, posit forgetfulness against the memory complexes of duration to sidestep the act of negation, which relies upon the identity of essence in its operation. Without memory, there is noth- ing, or no “thing,” to negate. We are left with intensities, and ultimately, singularities that have lost all chains of association,

deleuze’s aesthetic ontology

even at the molecular level. To reconnect to Leibniz’s calculus, this is the differential equation, where dy/dx forces the terms to infinitely approach 0, always-already vanishing, while the rela- tion itself remains determinable. The differential mechanism is the quasi-cause, and the molar memory of actual forms is ex- pelled through the infinite splitting of the past and future in the self-differing eluded present. Absolute becoming, the function of counter-causality, creates a gap between the future and the past. It makes a ghost of duration and divides the past from the future in perpetuum, forcing all three syntheses of time to be- come according to the logical planes of their operation, whether in sensation or ideational events. An ordinate of the circle, the moment unwinds the circle of the past as a synthesis of the fu- ture. This is the portrait of Deleuze’s eternal return that is most prevalent in the secondary literature: the broken circle of time stretched out in a straight line. The third synthesis of time, or the future, finds its most exhaustive exposition in Difference and Repetition. The future is emptied of content, including all dura- tion; it is the repetition of the unconditioned. By usurping the ground of the pure past, the third synthesis of time expresses the death of God and man, and appropriately, the destruction of all identity. The result is a metaphysical system, Nietzschean to the core, whereby aesthetic ontology replaces the judgment of Reason. Through the use of quasi-causality, the two inverted modes of becoming — sensory becoming and absolute becom- ing — constitute a world of pre-individual singularities, without negation, binary structures, or any of the trappings of Being. Unity, identity, duration (permanence), substance, cause, and materiality are unhinged from Reason in philosophy. In the end, Deleuze invents a logic of becoming that produces an aesthetic metaphysical system expressive of Nietzsche’s Dionysian world.


Closed Vessels and Signs:

Jealousy as a Passion for Reality

Arjen Kleinherenbrink

Gilles Deleuze’s Proust and Signs is a philosophical investigation of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time revolving around the concept of jealousy. According to Deleuze, Proust expands the experience of jealousy into a veritable “logic of jealousy” which discloses that reality is “a schizoid universe of closed vessels.” 1 Deleuze explicates this logic by tracing how the Proustian lov- er’s jealousy fuels an apprenticeship in which a beloved is suc- cessively experienced in terms of four signs: “material signs” of worldliness, love, and sensuous qualities, and “immaterial signs” of art. At each stage, the lover learns not just something about the beloved, but also about things in general. The signs, however, do not refer to four kinds of entities or experiences. There is only a formal distinction between them, and together they constitute a theory of the experience and essence of any entity whatsoever, be it a love, a memory, a person, a madeleine, or cobblestones. Reconstructing Deleuze’s analysis is interesting for two rea- sons. First, probing a seemingly banal feeling for philosophi- cal riches far surpassing its specificity as a contingent passion

1 Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs, trans. Richard Howard (Minneapolis:

University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 140, 175.

deleuze and the passions

strongly resonates with the analyses of anxiety, boredom, and nausea in the respective philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Jealousy, however, is not among the usual states investigated by such existentialists and phenomenologists, making it a relatively fresh ground to cover. Second, the “schizoid” universe to which jealousy leads us will be one of individual entities! This is, at the very least, quite surprising from a thinker so often considered to propagate the abolition of individual things in favor of more primordial inten- sities and fluxes of desire.

Material signs

But we must start at the beginning. The lover initially experi- ences “worldly signs.” 2 These are our everyday experiences of things in terms of colors, sounds, sizes, positions, and so on. They are the qualities we usually treat as being the objects to which they belong: “the worldly sign does not refer to some- thing, it ‘stands for’ it, claims to be equivalent to its meaning.” 3 After all, we say that madeleines are sweet, cobblestones are heavy, and the beloved is a lover’s beloved. These signs char- acterize the world of habitual recognition, and a non-jealous lover is precisely one who trusts that the beloved is only what she shows him, assuming an identity between her being and his experience of her affections. He believes to truly be part of her world as well, being present to her just as he is. This natural atti- tude toward things is what Deleuze calls “objectivism”: “To refer a sign to the object that emits it, to attribute to the object the benefit of the sign, is first of all the natural direction of percep- tion or of representation.” 4 Objectivism, however, is illusory. It makes us believe qualities are out there in the object, rather than in here in experience: “we think that the ‘object’ itself has the

2 Ibid., 6.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., 29.

jealousy as a passion for reality

secrets of the signs it emits.” 5 Objectivism is false because the same object can sustain contrary qualities. It can be experienced as bright, dull, and ugly now, but as dark, exciting, and beautiful later while nevertheless remaining this entity. A friend we have not seen in years may have changed completely, but it remains her. As Deleuze reminds us, the frivolous nature of qualities al- ready moved Plato to dismiss them as merely superficial. 6 The same object can even sustain contrary qualities simultaneously, as being bigger than something is always also being smaller than something else, and being to the left of this is always also being to the right of that. For Deleuze objectivism is our natural way of looking at things, deeply ingrained in memories, practical activities, per- ceptions, passions, and thoughts. 7 Hence interrupting our ob- jectivist habits requires a violent shock to thought, which is what jealousy provides. It makes a lover think that an entity (the beloved) is not the qualities in terms of which he experiences it (her). No matter what he experiences her saying or doing, none of it can be trusted, all of it could be lies and deceptions! Poi- sonous suspicions rear their heads: if she is not how I experi- ence her, then neither am I how she experiences me. So how can I be part of her world? And if she does not coincide with the affections she gives me, then others may share her affections as well! Since everything is usually known by its worldly signs, their sudden unreliability makes the jealous lover suspect that he does not really know anything! As Proust writes: “his merci- less jealousy places him […] in the position of a man who does not yet know.” 8 Jealousy then makes the lover encounter “signs of love.” 9 These are the same signs as before, but apprehended differently.

5 Ibid., 32.

6 Ibid., 101.

7 Ibid., 27, 29.

8 Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, Volume I: Swann’s Way, trans. Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin (New York: The Modern Library, 1992), 502–3.

9 Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 7.

deleuze and the passions

Qualitative experience is no longer assumed to coincide with its object, but taken as a sign of something hidden within it:

“[T]o love is to try to explicate, to develop these unknown worlds that remain enveloped within the beloved.” 10 The lover discovers that things are always in excess over and above the qualities they display: “Names, persons, and things are crammed with a con- tent that fills them to bursting.” 11 He realizes he does not love the beloved’s superficial qualities, but rather the multiplicity which they translate or transmute: “[L]ove does not concern only […] loved beings, but the multiplicity of souls or worlds in each of them.” 12 Readers familiar with Deleuze will immediately recog- nize this theme. All his works affirm that “relations are external to terms,” meaning that the being of an entity (the term) is never directly present in how it is experienced (the relation). 13 In Dif- ference and Repetition, the virtual Idea of a problematic being cannot be reduced to its actualization in qualified extension. In The Logic of Sense, a body’s singularities engender experienced sense-events from which they differ in kind. The body without organs of Anti-Oedipus has its desire which animates how it op- erates as a desiring-machine, but machines experience one an- other in terms of partial objects and qualified flows according to their capacities, never in terms of desire as such. Despite chang- es in terminology, Deleuze’s recurring thesis is that an entity is neither what it is made of, nor how it is experienced, nor what it does, did, or will do. It is what it can do, so that it is always fundamentally in excess over all its actualizations. The lover’s suspicions are thus confirmed: she is not his. How he experiences her is a real expression of her being, but never this being itself. According to Deleuze, this is the bitter truth of jealousy. The jealous lover keeps longing for full possession of the beloved and for a world in which her affections are purely devoted to him, but at the same time he realizes all too well that

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid., 122.

12 Ibid., 9.

13 Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 55.

jealousy as a passion for reality

this cannot be the case. The beloved always has an excessive world of her own, and at any moment she remains fully capable of dedicating herself to others. Moreover, as the same excessive being applies to all beings, this works both ways: he is excluded from her as she is excluded from him: “the truth of love is first of all the isolation of the sexes.” 14 Everything has its own world and one can only experience according to what one can do given one’s varying desire, singularities, or puissance. All possible ex- perience can only contain translations or caricatures of other entities, never their raw desire, singularities, or excess itself. Therefore whoever interprets love’s signs is an interpreter of lies and deceptions, though these terms have no moral connotation here. The point is merely that thinking we can be fully present to the beloved has turned out to be illusory. If love “makes it a principle to renounce all communication” it is because the be- loved, by definition, never truly appears to us as such. 15 The lover, however, does not abide. Jealousy has taken hold of him, with all its relentless suspicions, its betrayals perceived everywhere, and its compulsion to possess and exhaust, to “im- prison the beloved, immure her, sequester her in order to ‘expli- cate’ her, that is, to empty her of all the worlds she contains.” 16 Despite realizing that what he loves in her is her excessive being, the jealous lover can neither tolerate that the beloved cannot be reduced to his relation to her, nor accept that her world may not revolve around him. As Deleuze puts it: “nothing is ever paci- fied by a philia.” 17 What will be the jealous lover’s next move? He will stubbornly dissect his experience of the beloved in order to isolate those features which characterize her most intimately. Deleuze suggests this is what any subject will attempt after con- cluding that fleeting qualities cannot be the essence of any ob- ject. We can accept that “heavy” and “sweet” are not the essence of cobblestones or madeleines, but our usual response is to look

14 Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 80.

15 Ibid., 42.

16 Ibid., 121.

17 Ibid., 122.

deleuze and the passions

for other knowable qualities which would capture the essence anyway. We act as if worldly signs can be separated into two groups, the first consisting of lies and deceptions, the second consisting of truthful signs which communicate the essence of an object to a subject. A Lockean hunt for primary qualities thus ensues. As it is subjects who will have to study their object in order to decide which qualities belong to which group, Deleuze calls this “subjective compensation”:

[W]e are disappointed when the object does not give us the secret we were expecting. […] How is this disappoint- ment, in each realm, to be remedied? On each line of the apprenticeship, the hero undergoes an analogous experience, at various moments: for the disappointment of the object, he attempts to find a subjective compensation. […] What is to be done except to compensate for the disappointment? To become personally sensitive to less profound signs that are yet more appropriate […]. 18

Subjective compensation is a tremendous increase in effort, a heroic attempt to know and control the beloved’s most profound qualities, to get closer and become more intimate than any pos- sible rival, to strip away all her accidental features in order to unveil what distinguishes her from everything else. As Deleuze keeps repeating throughout Proust and Signs, it is the attempt to encircle and isolate the beloved’s typical talents and traits, so that the jealous lover can say that only he truly knows and de- serves her. One could say the lover becomes a passionate Hus- serlian, trying to isolate and apprehend the eidos or most inti- mate self-being of an individual. 19 As an example of subjective compensation, Deleuze reminds his readers of a scene in Proust involving an actress, Berma, who

18 Ibid., 34–35, 36.

19 Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phe-

nomenological Philosophy I, trans. Fred Kersten (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1982),


jealousy as a passion for reality

through the act of subjective compensation is found to have a strikingly intelligent vocal style. In isolating such a quality, one may think to have found something that truly characterizes her. At last, something “deep” presents itself in experience, some- thing that cannot possibly be a merely superficial and fleeting quality! A jealous lover will try to uncover a set of such quali- ties, both to prove to himself that he knows the beloved better than anyone else, and to gain data for his plans to isolate her for himself. At first sight, then, it seems he can solve his problem by becoming a master interpreter of signs of love. Whenever “deep” qualities are found, however, it turns out that “the moment of compensation remains in itself inadequate and does not provide a definitive revelation.” 20 Despite the lover’s efforts, subjective compensation again results in objective disappointment, in a failure to grasp the essence! What has happened? The jealous lover has discovered that something stands between him and the beloved, that there is always something interfering in the relation between a subject and an object. He discovers a third group of signs which will teach him that encircling and isolat- ing the beloved’s essence is impossible in principle: “nothing can prevent the disappointment.” 21 The third group of signs are what Deleuze calls “sensuous impressions or qualities.” 22 Again these are the same signs as be- fore, but again they are apprehended differently. Think of what the jealous lover is doing. He is trying to identify the beloved’s most intimate traits, those which deeply resonate with her and that truly make her flourish when “activated.” He is constantly imagining or trying to realize situations in which she will truly “shine forth,” hoping that if he offers her these situations, she will elect to reside in them, together with him and in all sincer- ity. Have not all of us at some point fantasized about the ultimate gesture and the perfect collision of interests that would unite us with the beloved once and for all, like Bonny and Clyde united

20 Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 36.

21 Ibid., 52–3, 35.

22 Ibid., 11.

deleuze and the passions

in a passion for crime or the Curies united in a passion for sci- ence? The jealous lover, however, learns that such situations are sources of defeat instead of victory. Even if he manages to create and sustain them he will not have the beloved’s essence, but only her manifestations at a certain place and time! It does not matter that those would be situations in which she is “at home” or “at her best.” She will still manifest only as a caricature or transmu- tation and he will only love her according to circumstances. The very fact that “deep” qualities are only actualized in very specific situations and that the jealous lover must fantasize or realize even more circumstances in which to “reactivate” them, teaches him that there is no quality independent of circumstance. There is no such thing as an eidos or primary quality belonging just to the object! The jealous lover discovers that “[T]he reasons for loving never inhere in the person loved but refer to ghosts, to Third Parties, to Themes that are incarnated in himself accord- ing to complex laws.” 23 Or in less poetic terms: “[T]he quality no longer appears as a property of the object that now possesses it, but as the sign of an altogether different object that we must try to decipher, at the cost of an effort that always risks failure.” 24 The lover finds himself confronted with a necessary consequence of relations being external to terms: there is no universal medium through or ground upon which relations can be forged. If there would be, all relations and terms would be internal to one term:

the medium or ground (its historical guises are famous: Apei- ron, God, Nature, Spirit, and so on). Instead, the ground is al- ways a contingent entity, with the ground as well as what relates on it remaining irreducible to one another. There is no medium, there are “various media.” 25 As Deleuze says in an early seminar on the problem of grounding:

The ground is the third, because it is neither the claimant, nor what he lays claim to, but the instance which will make

23 Ibid., 31.

24 Ibid., 11.

25 Ibid., 49.

jealousy as a passion for reality

the claimed yield to the claimant. The object in itself is never subjected to the claim. The demand and the claim always come to the object from the outside. Example: in making

a claim to the hand of the girl, what can one appeal to? As

arbiter we use the father who is the third, the ground. But the father can say: complete a test, slay the dragon. What grounds is then the test. [He] can also say that it depends on

her. There is then still a third. The love the girl experiences

is not like her being itself, but the principle which makes her

being yield to the claim. There is always a third and it has to be sought out […]. 26

Subjective compensation fails. Isolating eidetic qualities and tailoring a situation to them does not yield possession of the beloved. To his horror, the lover realizes that any sign or experi- ence is a mere translation of his beloved’s fundamental excess over all relation, and also that the experience of his beloved’s qualities is irrevocably characterized and colored by the con- tingent third thing in which experience happens. We are wrong in thinking that we can be subtle or even scientific enough to accurately isolate the essence of an object and bring it into the light of day. Returning to the example of the actress, our hero discovers that her remarkable qualities manifest only in the role of Phèdre that Berma plays. 27 They belong not just to Berma, but to Berma on stage and in character. This is why Deleuze associates Third Parties with involuntary memories “rising up,” as with Combray for the madeleine and Venice for the cobble- stones: any entity whatsoever can only be experienced as tinged by some medium in which it appears. There is simply no other way. If relations are external to terms, a third thing must bring them together. Even if Combray or Venice would not rise up, the madeleine or the cobblestones would still be experienced in something else. Even after the father’s blessing and the dragon’s

26 Gilles Deleuze, What is Grounding?, trans. Arjen Kleinherenbrink (Grand Rapids: &&& Publishing, 2015), 22–23.

27 Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 37.

deleuze and the passions

death, the claimant and the girl only have each other accord- ing to their love. Any qualitative experience is thus common to two things: a “present” of the object at hand and a “past” of that in which it appears. 28 In Proust and Signs Deleuze describes the third thing in terms of “rising up.” In The Logic of Sense, it is the paradoxical entity which “runs through” any two series. In Anti- Oedipus, it is the body without organs which ‘falls back onto’ production wherever two machinic entities establish a connec- tion. No pure appearance is possible, which is why signs of love “anticipate in some sense their alteration and their annihilation” and “love unceasingly prepares its own disappearance [and] acts out its dissolution.” 29 What keeps the jealous lover from grasping the belov- ed in her unique essence? The previous three signs are “too material.” 30 “Material” does not mean “made of physical stuff,” but “in something else”: “[A]ll the signs we meet in life are still material signs, and their meaning, because it is always in some- thing else, is not altogether spiritual.” 31 The three material signs always concern the experience of something in terms of what it is not. This is to say they are relational. Worldly signs relate enti- ties to general concepts and generic qualities which can always be the same as or like those of other entities. Signs of love relate the excessive powers or singularities of an entity to their transla- tion into sensible experience: “[they] are inseparable from the weight of a face, from the texture of a skin, from the width and color of a cheek.” 32 Finally, sensuous signs are inextricably mixed with the third thing, the ground or circumstance in and accord- ing to which an entity is experienced. Nevertheless, even though progressing through the first three signs teaches him a great deal about reality, the jealous lover who keeps failing to grasp the beloved’s essence considers them waste of time. In each case, her essence was “no longer master of its own incarnation, of its own

28 Ibid., 59.

29 Ibid., 19.

30 Ibid., 58.

31 Ibid., 41, emphasis added.

32 Ibid., 85.

jealousy as a passion for reality

choice, but […] chosen according to data that remain external to it.” 33 The jealous lover thus cannot stop “the Search.” First, be- cause he loves her and not how she appears. Second, because

his jealousy forces him to seek out the truth of her essence, not its translations. He remains haunted by the thought of being an observer who up to now “saw things only from without, that

is to say, who saw nothing.” 34 His jealousy is a passion for her

reality. Even if he acknowledges that all ways of having her and of being had by her are only ever treacherous transmutations, and even if this is true for all lovers and beloveds, he must still find the essence of which these transmutations are translations. In Deleuze’s words: “At the end of the Search, the interpreter understands […] that the material meaning is nothing without an ideal essence that it incarnates. The mistake is to suppose that

the hieroglyphs represent ‘only material objects.’” 35 The lover will take one last step, going beyond the previous signs and toward her essence. And since jealousy fuels his need to know what it

is he loves and wants to possess, “jealousy is deeper than love, it

contains love’s truth.” 36

Immaterial signs

Materiality is operation in or according to something else. If the lover wants to discover what incarnates itself in material signs, he needs to bracket all (his) ways of putting his beloved

in relations: “The beloved woman conceals a secret, even if it is known to everyone else. The lover himself conceals the beloved:

a powerful jailer.” 37 He needs to think her internal reality, her

33 Ibid., 64.

34 Proust, In Search of Lost Time, 532.

35 Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 13. “Hieroglyphs” is a synonym for “signs” throughout the book. “Only material objects” paraphrases “[…] they regarded aesthetic merits as material objects which an unclouded vision could not fail to discern […]” (Proust, In Search of Lost Time, 207).

36 Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 9.

37 Ibid., 79.

deleuze and the passions

immaterial essence external to all relation. Deleuze calls imma- terial essences “signs of art”: “the world of art is the ultimate world of signs, and these signs, as though dematerialized, find their meaning in an ideal essence.” 38 Why art? Because art al- lows us to see that an entity is never what it relates to, neither its component parts nor its observers. The Mona Lisa is not re- ducible to the paint and canvas from which it emerges (even though it needs both to survive), to how it is experienced, to whom created it, nor to who it depicts. This is the lover’s epiph- any: the beloved has an essence irreducible to all relation. Art is what can “stand up on its own”; it is the exception teaching us the truth for all cases. 39 Yet what is this essence? It is a unity:

“[A]rt gives us the true unity: unity of an immaterial sign and of an entirely spiritual meaning. The essence is precisely this unity of sign and meaning as it is revealed in the work of art.” 40 What is the bond between this immateriality and spirituality? “It is a dif- ference, the absolute and ultimate Difference. Difference is what constitutes being […].” 41 This difference is not “an empirical dif- ference between two things or two objects, always extrinsic.” 42 It does not concern a relation of one entity with another. Instead, it is the intrinsic difference constituting the internal reality of an entity. But what is this internal reality? Deleuze tells us that essence is an “Idea,” but also that Proust is Leibnizian in that essences are “veritable monads.” 43 These two statements are the key to understanding signs of art, because it indicates that the essence of an entity has two aspects. The Idea was already encountered earlier: “when we have reached the revelation of art, we learn that essence was already

38 Ibid., 13.

39 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tom- linson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994),


40 Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 40.

41 Ibid., 41.

42 Ibid.

43 Ibid.

jealousy as a passion for reality

there.” 44 It is that of which signs of love were translations: the fundamental excess of the being of the beloved. Her Idea is her desire, her puissance, her singularities, her virtuality, that which she can do. Since every worldly sign is a sign of love as well, an entity’s Idea is always subsisting in how we actually experience it: “the Idea is already there in the sign, in the enveloped and involuted state, in the obscure state of what forces us to think.” 45 And if Deleuze famously takes up the Nietzschean challenge to invert Platonism, it is not just by making Ideas interior essences. He also makes Ideas malleable. His is not a Platonic theory in which “the Idea as the goal of reminiscence is the stable Es- sence,” but one in which Ideas are subject to “qualitative transi- tion” and “mutual fusion.” 46 Essence is neither fixed nor directly knowable. This is why the entire book puts so much emphasis on learning. Not just because the jealous lover undergoes an ap- prenticeship, but also because the Idea of an entity can change, depending on its encounters, best exemplified by learning in human beings. But an essence is not just an Idea. Essence is a unity of an Idea with what Deleuze calls “the hidden thing,” “the concealed thing,” found to “dwell in dark regions.” 47 In terms of his other works: each plastic Idea is wedded to its problem, singularities are always tied to a body in a depth, and wherever there is desire there is a body without organs. This is why essences are veritable monads. The Leibnizian monad in itself is a bond between the absolute simple spiritual substance and its real qualities. 48 It is also why essences are “viewpoints.” 49 Each entity, after all, can only experience a world based on what its powers enable it to

44 Ibid., 89.

45 Ibid., 97.

46 Ibid., 109.

47 Ibid., 47, 100.

48 Each monad must have real qualities, otherwise they would not be dis- tinct. See Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, “The Principles of Philosophy, or, The Monadology,” in Philosophical Essays, trans. and eds. Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1989), §8, 213–24.

49 Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 161.

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experience and do. Of course this seems strange: is Deleuze not the thinker of free-floating intensities, flows of desire, rhizomes, and a chaos of infinite speeds? The point is nevertheless that while entities are always already enmeshed in complex networks and fluid intersections with countless others, nothing can take away the fact that every entity is irreducible, even though its essence may change over the course of its existence. Deleuze is first and foremost a thinker of individual entities, even if he always thinks them in their becomings. And indeed, a hidden “realm” of permeating intensities or throbbing desire is not at all what the jealous lover finds. The lover and the beloved are not just “physically” separated while “really” being together as free flows somewhere else. Because what does the jealous lover find once he has reached the essence? By discovering the essence of the beloved, he discovers any given entity is essentially a sealed or closed vessel, one closed by definition, a point Deleuze keeps repeating. 50 The essence of an entity is thus the tension between its monadic simplicity as a closed vessel and its malleable Idea determining what it can do. This is the meaning of “difference in itself ” and “internal difference,” because it constitutes absolute heterogeneity within a single entity. As Deleuze insists in Proust and Signs, essences are “imprisoned” in a state of “complication, which envelops the many in the One and affirms the unity of the multiple.” 51 Finally, then, the jealous lover has reached the Real, and “this ideal reality, this virtuality, is essence […].” 52 He at last discovers the root cause of things, an essence irreducible to a psychological state, a transcendental subjectivity, or any de- rivative thereof: “[T]he final quality at the heart of a subject; but this quality is deeper than the subject, of a different order. […] Essence is not only individual, it individualizes.” 53 Now, it is easy to see why essence individualizes. The individual beloved and all her individual qualities and actions are mere actualizations of

50 Ibid., 117, 125, 127, 162, 175.

51 Ibid., 45.

52 Ibid., 61.

53 Ibid., 43.

jealousy as a passion for reality

her virtual essence as translated in terms of both circumstance (remember the sensuous signs) and the Idea or capacities of the lover. Any actual experienced individual is always a translated blend of the object perceived and that in which the object is per- ceived, based on the capacities of the perceiver. At the same time that essence is incarnated in a substance, “the ultimate quality constituting it is therefore expressed as the quality common to two different objects, kneaded in this luminous substance, plunged into this refracting medium.” 54 Hence any actual event is grounded in essences, the latter being the veritable causes of all previous signs:

It is only on the level of art that the essences are revealed. But once they are manifested in the work of art […], we learn that they already incarnated, that they were already there in all these kinds of signs […]. 55

Schizoid universe

The jealous lover does not find a solution, but a reason. He learns why it is impossible to truly possess the beloved. The beloved, like each entity, is the immaterial unity of a closed vessel wedded to a malleable Idea, only appearing in relation by being trans- lated or transmuted, by being co-constituted by the essences of other entities. Essences can only be thought, never made pre- sent: “in the case of the signs of art, pure thought as the faculty of essences becomes the interpreter.” 56 Or put differently: “The intelligence dreams of objective content, of explicit objective significations that it is able, of its own accord, to discover or to receive or to communicate.” 57 Note that this is not ontotheology. The jealous lover knows that entities are sealed vessels wedded to shifting desire, but precisely because such essences cannot ap-

54 Ibid., 47.

55 Ibid., 38.

56 Ibid., 86.

57 Ibid., 29, cf. “only intelligence extracts truth” (ibid., 23).

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pear in relations without being transmuted, he can never know precisely what exists and what something can do. Hence “there is no intersubjectivity except an artistic one,” 58 because every re- lation will always already be the result of a styling of experience. Deleuze’s famous mantra states that we know not what a body can do, and the jealous lover discovers why: “jealousy is […] the discovery of the unknowable world that represents the beloved’s own viewpoint […].” 59 The Search culminates in the grand thesis that reality is “a schizoid universe of closed vessels, of cellular regions, where contiguity itself is a distance […].” 60 Not just for us, but as such. Being is not ontologically split into subjects and objects; rather, both of them are equals in being sealed vessels or bodies: “nei- ther things nor minds exist, there are only bodies.” 61 The world itself “has become crumbs and chaos.” 62 It is a world in which each “part is valid for itself, [and] there is no other part that cor- responds to it, no totality into which it can enter, no unity from which it is torn and to which it can be restored.” 63 It follows that entities must be thought as contingent alli- ances between heterogeneous, irreducible parts, with each part consisting of further such parts, each with a body and desire of its own:

We can form a complex group, but we never form it without its splitting in its turn, this time as though into a thousand sealed vessels. […] [A]nd in each vessel is a self that lives, perceives, desires, and remembers, that wakes or sleeps, that dies, commits suicide, and revives in abrupt jolts. 64

58 Ibid., 42.

59 Ibid., 139.

60 Ibid., 175.

61 Ibid., 92.

62 Ibid., 111.

63 Ibid., 112.

64 Ibid., 124.

jealousy as a passion for reality

This is why the relation of parts to a whole is never one of exhaustion, totalization, or “natural place,” but instead “the co- existence of asymmetric and noncommunicating parts.” 65 This is no less the case for the hydrogen and oxygen in water than it is for two lovers in love. Nothing can truly lock anything in place:

“Even [a] painting by Vermeer is not valid as a Whole because of the patch of yellow wall planted there as a fragment of still another world.” 66 The essence of an entity cannot be reduced to that in which it appears: “a content [is] incommensurable with the container.” 67 For example, when drinking tea “the true container is not the cup, but the sensuous quality, the flavor.” 68 The content is the tea qua tea, and the flavor is the container into which it is translated, the tea being destined to subsist in it without ever appearing as it is itself. An essence is always impli- cated in how it is explicated, but that which is explicated cannot become the explication itself. In being experienced by another entity, a “sealed vessel” is treated as an “open box,” but this never happens without a fundamental distortion. 69 The jealous lover has thus discovered a “galactic structure” as the truth of jealousy. 70 It turns out that objectivism is not wrong because objects would not exist, but because it misunderstands what objects are: “objectivity can no longer exist except in the work of art, […] solely in the formal structure of the work, in its style,” style being “a matter of essence.” 71 So wherever there is a whole, it is not a totality which exhausts or naturalizes its parts. Instead, parts are always only “violently stuck together despite their unmatching edges,” 72 whether they are parts of a percep- tion, Venice, a memory of Combray, a Madeleine, the beloved, or even the beloved and the lover as parts of a love. Complete

65 Ibid., 117.

66 Ibid., 114.

67 Ibid., 117.

68 Ibid., 119.

69 Ibid., 140.

70 Ibid., 175.

71 Ibid., 167.

72 Ibid., 123.

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totalities do not exist and “this is what the closed vessels signify:

there is no totality except a statistical one that lacks any pro- found meaning.” 73 Nothing is ever locked in place, everything in any relation can in principle escape and deterritorialize: there are only “aberrant communications between the noncommuni- cating vessels, transversal unities between the boxes that resist any totalization […].” 74 The world thus discovered revolves around “force.” 75 Every- thing, ranging from simple perception, to forging an amorous relation, to keeping one’s parts in place, is a matter of struggle between parts that have no natural place, no reason as such to be anywhere as anything. This is the necessary consequence of the “astonishing pluralism” Deleuze finds in Proust. 76 If nothing has a natural place, if nothing can be related to as such, then relating to anything at all requires work, force, effort, translation, deceit, maintenance, strategy, and luck. Moreover, learning becomes the highest task:

To learn is first of all to consider a substance, an object, a be- ing as if it emitted signs to be deciphered, interpreted. There is no apprentice who is not “the Egyptologist” of something. One becomes a carpenter only by becoming sensitive to the signs of wood, a physician by becoming sensitive to the signs of disease. […] Everything that teaches us something emits signs; every act of learning is an interpretation of signs or hieroglyphs. 77

We can never learn what something is in and of itself. This fails in principle. Instead, we must learn how, where, when, and why something works, which is to become sensitive to the signs something emits. Such is the final meaning of jealousy as the passion proper to the apprenticeship of signs. And just as jeal-

73 Ibid., 125–26.

74 Ibid., 143.

75 Ibid., 152.

76 Ibid., 4.

77 Ibid.

jealousy as a passion for reality

ousy makes the Proustian lover stumble upon an unexpected universe of closed vessels, so could Deleuze’s treatment of jeal- ousy introduce us to an unexpected Deleuze, both in terms of where his affinities lie and of what his axioms are.


The Drama of Ressentiment :

The Philosopher versus the Priest

Sjoerd van Tuinen

Following the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015, Slavoj Žižek took a stance against the consensus that the assailants were fundamentalists. A true fundamentalist, after all, is deeply convinced of the superiority of his own way of life and therefore indifferent toward the non-believers’ way of life. When a Tibetan Buddhist encounters a Western hedonist, he may note that the hedonist’s search for happiness is self-defeating, but he will not condemn him for this. Today’s pseudo-fundamentalists, by contrast, are deeply bothered, intrigued, fascinated by the sinful life of global consumerism. In fighting the other, they are in fact fighting themselves, and this is what makes them all the more passionate. The terrorists, Žižek argues, are driven not by self-confidence but by ressentiment:

How fragile the belief of a Muslim must be if he feels threat- ened by a stupid caricature in a weekly satirical newspaper? […] The problem with fundamentalists is not that we consid- er them inferior to us, but, rather, that they themselves secret- ly consider themselves inferior. This is why our condescend- ing politically correct assurances that we feel no superiority towards them only makes them more furious and feeds their resentment. The problem is not cultural difference (their ef-

deleuze and the passions

fort to preserve their identity), but the opposite fact that the fundamentalists are already like us, that, secretly, they have already internalized our standards and measure themselves by them. 1

Ressentiment, according to Friedrich Nietzsche, is the feeling of vengefulness. 2 According to Gilles Deleuze’s succinct defini- tion, it is a reaction which “ceases to be acted in order to become something felt (senti).” 3 It results from one’s impotence to either change or forget the cause of one’s suffering. As interiorized suf- fering, it turns outward only in the form of moral indignation. For a long time, it was thought that the ressentimental need for recrimination and compensation was the main drive behind the French Revolution and subsequent emancipatory processes. Eventually these processes would have led, despite their secret inauthentic motivation as it were, to a mature, i.e., post-histori- cal, post-ideological, and post-political democracy in which all soil on which ressentiment grows has been erased. Except that, the rise of populism, fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism, scapegoating, and the whole culture of naming, blaming, sham- ing, and claiming by people who experience themselves as vic- tims despite living in affluent societies have put the question of ressentiment back on the agenda.

1 Slavoj Žižek, “Slavoj Žižek on the Charlie Hebdo massacre: Are the worst

really full of passionate intensity?,” New Statesman, January 10, 2015, http://

massacre-are-worst-really-full-passionate-intensity. In this article, Žižek writes “resentment” but means ressentiment. Adam Smith defined resent- ment as a social passion of injustice. Ressentiment, by contrast, equals a degenerated and inauthentic resentment. See Sjoerd van Tuinen, ed., The Polemics of Ressentiment (London/New York: Bloomsbury, forthcoming


2 Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, ed. Walter Kaufmann, trans. Walter Kaufmann and Reginald J. Hollingdale, published together with Ecce Homo, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 37.

3 Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 111. My emphasis.

the drama of ressentiment

If in the current post-emancipatory condition everybody can see again the actuality of the notion of ressentiment, it is not up to philosophy to prove its relevance or sum up the different forms in which it appears. On the contrary: the problem is that our understanding of the various forms of ressentiment is hardly ever based on more than some trivial everyday psychology. Lib- eral conservative discourse is symptomatic in this respect, as it suffices to reduce any emancipatory movement — from Jacobin- ism to feminism and populism — to its base motivation in jeal- ousy, frustration, or some other passion deemed pathological and/or irrational in order to disqualify it. Of course, this dis- course is not exactly new. Just as Nietzsche despised socialism or anarchism as secularizations of a Judaic-Christian ressentiment (and in this way dismissed the French Revolution as “a pathetic and bloody piece of quackery4 ), later philosophical sociologists and anthropologists from Max Weber and Max Scheler to René Girard see modern egalitarian struggles as expressions of a dan- gerously regressive envy. Žižek rightfully wonders whether this “obsessive-compulsive urge to find beneath solidarity the envy of the weak and thirst for revenge […] is sustained by a disa- vowed envy and resentment of its own, the envy of the universal emancipatory position.” 5 But is his own position really differ- ent? Does he not also frame the situation around Charlie Hebdo from a majoritarian point of view, such that the scary and atten- tion seeking “other” turns out to be actually very much like us, only less authentic and more deprived? 6 And in this way, does

4 Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, eds. Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter, trans. Reginald J. Hollingdale (Cam- bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 211.

5 Slavoj Žižek, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections (London: Profile Books, 2009), 287.

6 Wendy Brown, for example, has made the classical argument that in the multiculturalist mantra of race, class, gender, sexuality, ressentiment invariably names class difference but rarely articulates it as such. Thus while she agrees with Žižek that identity politics and its discourse of injustices other than class covers up the subject’s investment in the internal standards of existing societies, such that no difference is counted as a real difference, her analysis has the merit of taking this argument out of the

deleuze and the passions

he not reinforce the very opposition his diagnosis is supposed to overcome? 7 In fact, the problem of ressentiment is much more obstinate than is generally acknowledged. In his On the Genealogy of Mor- als, Nietzsche himself was very explicit about the fact that for him ressentiment was not a psychological (or historical, or even biological) problem, but first of all a philosophical problem, the problem of a philosophical clinic. 8 This explains why in his work, the critical unmasking of ressentiment rarely takes the form of a personal reproach or of the attempt to outsmart his opponents by psychopathological means. Whereas Nietzsche would un- doubtedly agree with Žižek that such recriminating uses of the notion bespeak a ressentimental moralism of their own, part of the problem is precisely how to prevent this diagnosis from re- gressing into a never-ending blame game. Following Deleuze’s leading thesis in Nietzsche and Philosophy, everything happens as if Nietzsche has not been taken seriously enough as a phi- losopher (i.e., as a “pedagogue of the concept”). Warning us like no other of the “modern conformism” in our use of Nietzsche, Deleuze conveys a very “demoralizing” message: it is crucial to emphasize the radically “extra-moral” character of the concept of ressentiment, since this is precisely what has been compro- mised and betrayed right after Nietzsche. Whereas we can easily speak the truth that belongs to phenomena of ressentiment, the practical meaning and affective direction of this truth (its sens) is usually not as critical as we think it is. As Deleuze, always wary of the puerility and artificiality of truth judgments, writes: “We always have as much truth as we deserve in accordance with the

blame structure of a liberal order that alternately denies the real grounds of ressentiment or blames those who suffer from it for their own condi- tion. Cf. Wendy Brown, “Wounded Attachments,” Political Theory 31, no. 3 (1993): 390–410.

7 Sjoerd van Tuinen, “A Thymotic Left?: Peter Sloterdijk and the psychopoli- tics of Ressentiment,” Symploke 18, nos. 1–2 (2010): 47–64, at 61.

8 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 55–56.

the drama of ressentiment

sense of what we say. Sense is the genesis or the production of the true, and truth is only the empirical result of sense.” 9 Ressentiment, then, is one of those thorny issues that con- stantly threaten to compromise the one who speaks about it. There is no intrinsic good sense in the application of its concept and no universal criterion, but only, as we will see, a polemi- cal sense. It is precisely its conflictual politics that is forgotten when, for example, leftist intellectuals blame rightwing popu- lists for pursuing a vulgar politics of rancor, or when the latter blame the traditional leftist elite for being stuck in the past. In fact, the more we tend to think we have overcome our ressenti- ment, the more we should wonder whether our own discursive position is not itself infected by the very moralizing ressentiment which we like to think we have acquired the right to dismiss. In what follows, I will practice Deleuze’s method of dramatiza- tion in order to distinguish two almost opposed senses in which the concept of ressentiment has been put to use: a speculative sense and a nihilistic sense. Whereas the former is typical for the conceptual persona of the philosopher, the latter corresponds to that of the priest. I will argue that while there is no a priori rule and no final argument that can mediate or solve their conflict, the former acquires the highest or best consistency between theory and practice in the concept of ressentiment.

The forgetting of the priest

Nietzsche proposed the concept of ressentiment in order to trace the origins of Western nihilism. While the “morality of mor- als [Sittlichkeit der Sitte]” is constituted in principle, although hardly ever in fact, by the spontaneous activity and creativity of nobles, ressentiment is only the local and surreptitious illness of slaves. If this typological difference between aristocrats and slaves is first of all a hierarchy in principle, then because in his- tory it tends to be blurred, distorted or even reversed by ressenti-

9 Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York:

Columbia University Press, 1994), 154.

deleuze and the passions

ment, which fictionalizes a reversal of values in which weakness

turns into merit, baseness into humility, passivity into patience, or more generally good into Evil and bad into Good. How does ressentiment become capable of this historical re- versal, given the slaves’ essential impotence to act? This is the genealogical question par excellence and Nietzsche’s answer

is extremely original: the victory of reactive forces over active

forces is due to the calculating genius of a third type, the (Paul-

ine) priest. The role of the priest is that of a healer or redeemer who suffers from, and relies on, the same illness he is supposed to heal. By a constant appeal to bad conscience, he turns the outward recriminations inward and thus pacifies ressentiment, whereas a constant appeal to pity enables him to seduce and re- duce even the most noble forces to passivity and thus dissemi- nate ressentiment ad infinitum. In protecting the weak against the strong, the priest thus leads the “slave revolt in morality,” that moment when “ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values,” 10 in other words, when it constitutes a global culture of its own. From the genealogical point of view the priest is the most important type, because without him it

is not clear why the whole of life would succumb to passivity.

While ressentiment is the source of slave morality, it takes an artist capable of giving an adaptive and regulative form to pas- sive matter for the fictional reversal of values to bring about real

effects. 11 It is thus up to the priest to usher in the long history of

a postponed and imaginary revenge, even if this revenge will

ultimately acquire a secular form in the modern ideal of uni- versal equality, just as the place of the priest will be taken up by demagogues, politicians, journalists, psychotherapists, and all the more anonymous media of contemporary biopolitics. Authors such as Scheler and Girard also see an intrinsic rela- tion between ressentiment and modernity, but following in the

10 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 36.

11 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, published together with Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, eds. Aaron Ridley and Judith Norman, trans. Judith Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 21–22; Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 125–26.

the drama of ressentiment

footsteps of Max Weber’s criticism of Nietzsche, they reverse

the causal relation. Whereas vengefulness would be of all times, they argue, ressentiment could only become a formative power because of egalitarian ideals that constantly confront us with

a discrepancy between principle and fact, and thus encourage

rancor as a universal human right. Whereas the “untimely” originality of Nietzsche’s genealogical method lies in emphasiz- ing the necessity of millennia of slow cultural preparation and consolidation, Scheler and Girard turn Nietzsche’s genealogical tracing of democratic ideals to ressentiment into a much more immediate and determinate, yet also much more trivial and cir- cumstantial connection: only in modern democracies and its

egalitarian cultivation of the frustration of the unprivileged over the persistence of inequality could ressentiment have its disrup- tive and militant effect on social order. Instead of the progenitor of modernity, the culture of ressentiment would thus be its child.

It is no longer ressentiment that fictionalizes egalitarian ideol-

ogy, but egalitarian ideology (what Žižek calls “our standards”) that generates ressentiment. 12 Unsurprisingly, it is this inverted perspective that lies at the basis of most modern understandings of ressentiment, in which Nietzsche features less as philosophical authority than as half- madman, half-malevolent genius. 13 But the price for this new- found realism is a blindness to the problem that necessitated Nietzsche to invent the concept of ressentiment in the first place, i.e., the slave revolt in morality, in which the priest plays a cru- cial role. We either openly deny (Weber, Scheler, Girard, Charles Taylor) or at least ignore (John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Marc Angenot, Marc Ferro, Norbert Bolz) the priestly nature of every culture of ressentiment. Instead, we get a retroactive revaluation

12 Max Scheler, Ressentiment, trans. William W. Holdheim (New York:

Schocken Books, 1972); René Girard, Deceit, Desire and the Novel: Self and Other in Literary Structure, trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1976).

13 Nicholas Birns, “Ressentiment and Counter-Ressentiment: Nietzsche, Scheler, and the Reaction Against Equality,” Nietzsche Circle, http://www.

deleuze and the passions

of the mediating role of Christianity modelled on, and often also put forward as a model for, civil society. 14 The Christian love of one’s neighbor does not turn ressentiment into a formative power, but precisely prevents it from becoming so. After all, in Christ we are all equal. Only in modernity is the patient waiting for the Last Judgment transformed into the impatience of the Last Man who wants to be compensated for every suffering and every perceived injustice here on earth. Only here does ressenti- ment become something that can no longer be repressed. From a Nietzschean point of view, the later confusion of the causality of ressentiment with its ideological consequences and the subsequent forgetting of the priest can usually be recog- nized by two methodological consequences. Firstly, it implies the depoliticization of the concept of ressentiment by empiri- cal psychology and neurosciences, which focus on emotions of individuals instead of socio-political passions. Secondly, this depoliticization of ressentiment comes at the price of its subse- quent sociological moralization, according to which the ressen- timent of individuals threatens the public order instead of being an intrinsic part of it. But aren’t psychologization and moraliza- tion precisely the modus operandi of the priest as identified by Nietzsche? Is this not exactly how the neo-liberal pacification of the loser as guilty individual, the discrete management of de- pressed egos, proceeds, arguing that if you were not successful on the market, you have nobody to blame but yourself? 15

14 The exception here is Žižek, for whom the ressentiment of Holocaust victims (rather than that of the Charlie Hebdo attackers) appears to be affirmable as the very persistence of the negative (i.e., as a contradictory “authentic ressentiment,” see Žižek, Violence, 159) instead of having to be negated itself.

15 For a historical development, see Sjoerd van Tuinen, “Physiology versus Psychology: The Priest and the Biopolitics of Ressentiment,” in Inside. Outside. Other. The Body in the Work of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, eds. Ann-Cathrin Drews and Katharina D. Martin (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, forthcoming 2016). Drawing on a distinction from What Is Philosophy?, the priest and the philosopher are both psychosocial types and conceptual personae. Psychosocial types are historical constellations. They are defined by what they render perceptible, the three movements

the drama of ressentiment

We should remember that the Genealogy of Morals is a po- lemic with priestly modes of thought, and that it opens not simply by rejecting previous attempts to locate the source of Western morality in ressentiment made by Paul Rée or Eugen Dühring, but by displacing their inquiry to these moral theo- rists themselves. 16 It is their rancor, mistrust, impotence, disap- pointments, ideals, habits, hatred, and tastes, in other words, the typical symptomatology of their will to power, that Nietzsche is interested in. By itself, as a mere historical fact, the problem of ressentiment is not interesting. It becomes so only “on the soil of this essentially dangerous form of human existence, the priestly form.” 17 The relevance of an inquiry into ressentiment lies exclu- sively in the non-trivial struggle against the priests who derive their power from its cultivation, and as we should now add, its interpretation and evaluation. This leads us to a fourth type, the one with which Nietzsche identifies himself: the philosopher, or the true genealogist. For Nietzsche, the meaning we attribute to ressentiment constitutes the very conflict that separates the philosopher and the priest as radically incommensurable per- spectives of evaluation. Who has the right to wield the concept of ressentiment and on the basis of which principle?

of the formation of territories, vectors of deterritorialization and the process of reterritorialization relative to a social field (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell [New York: Columbia University Press, 1994], 68). Different from psychosocial types, this chapter deals with conceptual personae. These are not physical or mental territories and movements of deterritorialization, but properly spiritual or transcendental conditions of enunciation. They are not relative movements, but problematic powers or affinities that are absolute, belonging only to the element of thought. “These are no longer empirical, psychological, and social determinations, still less abstractions, but intercessors, crystals, or seeds of thought” (ibid., 69). Even if concep- tual personae belong by right to thought and only to thought, they are inseparable from psychosocial types that belong to a historical milieu and render perceptible the drama of de- and re-territorialization of a concept. The two constantly refer to each other and combine without ever merging (ibid., 70).

16 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 24–25.

17 Ibid., 33.

deleuze and the passions

Transcendental typology

Every genealogical discussion requires a certain agonal, dra- matic or perspectivist sensibility: not for the relativity of truth, but for the truth of the relational, which takes into account the affects of the one who uses the concept of ressentiment no less than those of the one to whom it is applied. As Peter Sloterdijk puts it in his essay on cultural struggle (Kulturkampf), Die Ver- achtung der Massen:

Nietzsche’s theorem of ressentiment as flight of the weak into moralizing contempt for the strong […] until today has re- mained the most powerful instrument for the interpretation of the social-psychological relations in mass culture — an instrument of which it is admittedly not easy to say, who could or should wield it. It offers the most plausible descrip- tion of the behavior of the majorities in modern societies, but also its most polemogenous interpretation — polemog- enous, since it reduces the psychic dispositions of individuals who attest themselves morally first-rate motives to reactive and detractive mechanisms of antiverticality on the level of their intimate drives — such that between “truth” and “plau- sibility” a relation of mutual exclusion sets in. It is plausible nonetheless, as it attests to the quasi-omnipresent need for degradation of humiliated self-consciousness which empiri- cally speaking effectively belongs to it. 18

Plausibility is disconnected from truth, as Nietzsche already knew, whenever truth becomes a moral, i.e., universalizable or absolute aim in itself. For truth itself then becomes marked by the ressentiment of the slave who denies the irreducible “differ- end” between higher and lower points of view. “[D]ifference,”

18 Peter Sloterdijk, Die Verachtung der Massen: Versuch über Kulturkämpfe in der modernen Gesellschaft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2000),


the drama of ressentiment

Nietzsche writes, “engenders hatred.” 19 As a consequence, the plausibility of the diagnosis of ressentiment, the real efficacy of the perspectival truth of ressentiment, must be proven in anoth- er way than merely in the form of a claim to empirical knowl- edge. It does not suffice to know the difference in point of view; what is crucial is that it is actually and continuously being made by the genealogist himself. Genealogy, as Deleuze emphasizes, means both the origin of value and the value of the origin. 20 Or as Sloterdijk puts it: every attempt to “make a difference” and resist ressentiment implies a cultural struggle over the legitimacy and origin of differences in general. 21 The problem of genealogy, then, is the necessity of distin- guishing between high and low, active and ressentimental appli- cations of the concept of ressentiment, independent from estab- lished values and empirical distributions between rich and poor, capitalist and proletarian, elite and mass, man and woman, and so on. “We cannot use the state of a system of forces as it in fact is, or the result of the struggle between forces, in order to decide which are active and which are reactive.” 22 High and low are not just empirical values but refer to a difference in the conditions with which their evaluation takes place. After all, if difference is at the origin, the origin itself already includes the inverted im- age of its own genealogy 23 — for example, the caricaturized form of evolution, whether dialectical (German) or utilitarian (Eng- lish), or indeed the modernist discourse around ressentiment. This is why, even where we are dealing with a single fact such as ressentiment, the philosopher and the priest do not interpret and evaluate it in the same way. Rather, they each perceive the ver-

19 Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1966), 213n17.

20 “The difference in the origin does not appear at the origin — except perhaps to a particularly practiced eye, the eye which sees from afar, the eye of the far-sighted, the eye of the genealogist” (Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 5).

21 Sloterdijk, Die Verachtung der Massen, 95, 84.

22 Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 58.

23 Ibid., 56.

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sion of ressentiment that corresponds to their point of view. The difference between the philosopher and the priest, as Nietzsche announces already in the preface to the Genealogy of Morals, is therefore transcendental or “a priori.” 24 It is a critical difference, a difference of imagination that is hard to discern within the fact of ressentiment, since it is also constitutive of this fact. Or better still: it is made in the fact itself, such that, strictly speaking, we do not even speak of the same fact at all. “To have ressentiment or not to have ressentiment — there is no greater difference, be- yond psychology, beyond history, beyond metaphysics. It is the true difference or transcendental typology — the genealogical and hierarchical difference.” 25 The difference can only be discov- ered when we dramatize the fact of ressentiment and effectively construct its concept as a multiplicity of becomings, or put dif- ferently, when instead of asking what it is, we ask who it is that claims its truth and what passions are involved. This is why Deleuze emphasizes Nietzsche’s typological ap- proach, which aims to characterize in each thing and in each passion a principle of internal genesis and qualitative difference. Passions are always mixtures of high and low tendencies, such that the noble is constantly translated and reduced by the servile, and the servile is continuously reversed and transmuted by the noble. But whatever the factual mixtures, the fact that the two types do not communicate in the same way effectively proves that they continue to differ in principle. They are different vec- tors of feeling: while the slave is one of negation, the noble is one of affirmation. 26 If, in addition to the noble and the slave,

24 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Preface 16, 20.

25 Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 33.

26 Types are neither empirical portraits to be compared against an original, nor ideal types in the Weberian sense. Rather, they are ensembles of forces, which are physiological, but also psychological, political, historical, and social. Deleuze therefore insists that we make a difference between the type of the will to power (quality) and the relations of force (quantity), the former being the sufficient reason for the latter and as such insepa- rable from, but by no means identical with them (Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 44). Between them there is no simple opposition (this already betrays the one-sided perspective of negation of difference), but rather a

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we also need to distinguish the type of the philosopher and the priest, this is because only the philosopher has an interest in the art of typology. The very artificiality or imaginary character of the types is precisely what enables him to distinguish the deep distances between the grounds on which the passions become empirically visible and truths are produced. And it is this origi- nal and originary contrast that must be restored every time the passions are interpreted and evaluated — it is the very condition of their philosophical enunciation. Only on the basis of the dis- tinct type can we diagnose the sense of a mixture: when does ressentiment become a problem (at the beginning of history or at its end), in what form does it come about (frustrated revenge or envy), and in what order (as consequence or as principle of justice)?

Right and fact

Following Nietzsche and Deleuze, the delicate but rigorous art of the philosopher is to diagnose and evaluate our present be- comings by differentiating between high and low, noble or base, and to keep them apart “to all eternity [für alle Ewigkeit].” 27 To diagnose is therefore not just to produce an empirical truth about an actual state of affairs, but also, as in medical diagno- sis, to propose a strategy of healing and self-overcoming — in other words, to construct a type or symptomatology and negoti- ate a new vital relation to it. Inseparable from the becomings that insist in the diagnosed, the diagnosis must itself have the power of a performative: “The diagnosis of becomings in every passing present is what Nietzsche assigned to the philosopher as physician, ‘physician of civilization,’ or inventor of new imma- nent modes of existence.” 28 In this sense, philosophers such as

contrast: “two things can be thought as being really distinct without be- ing separable, no matter how little they may have requisites in common” (Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press], 55).

27 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 138.

28 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 113.

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Baruch Spinoza or Epictetus are interested in the becoming bet- ter or active of empirically given affections and passions. Since becoming is not only polar (active or passive) but also complex (a becoming-active of reactive forces or a becoming-reactive of active forces), they would never demand from those to whom the diagnosis applies that they give up or repress their specific passions. For it is these passions which, no matter how negative or sickening, enable the latter to become. An immanent diag- nosis must therefore always be both affirmative and speculative. It cannot be content to remain at the level of critical judgment, but has to effectively encounter them in a kind of mutual inclu- sion or co-presence. It must risk an inventive perspective that renders visible our actual passions at the same time as those vir- tual passions that can be associated with their becoming. This is how Nietzsche, in Ecce Homo, discusses the art of perspectival reversal by which we not only learn to evaluate healthy modes of living from the perspective of the sick, but also to distance ourselves from our illnesses from the fuller perspective of the healthy. 29 The point is that between the two points of view, there is no reciprocity or commensurability, or indeed no pity. A true change of perspectives is already a becoming, a construction of force relations according to a vital mode of evaluation. While the schizophrenic movement from health to illness or from ill- ness to health appears to be double, in reality it is a single move- ment, a single act of thought. As such it is itself the sign of a virtual health superior to every actual affective state (Nietzsche’s “great health”). 30 Health, after all, is never a static state, but al- ways also a dynamic act of counter-effectuation: a Genesung, both healing and genesis. With respect to ressentiment, too, this means that its over- coming implies a pure becoming, or in other words, a difference that is actively made with respect to every status quo. It is never

29 Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, published together with Genealogy of Morals, 222–23.

30 Gilles Deleuze, Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life, trans. Anne Boyman (Brooklyn: Zone Books, 2005), 58.

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sufficient to merely establish the individual fact of ressentiment. Like every passion, it possesses a “grey zone” where it becomes indiscernible from a whole spectrum of contrasting individua- tions. Ressentiment, as Bernard Stiegler writes, “is the nihilistic face of a combat that must be led within becoming, with it, but in order to transform it into a future.” Every becoming is at least duplicitous, such that the worst lies within the best and con- versely. “The larger question is, therefore: what must actually be combated, that is, what must one do, after one recognizes the scourge of ressentiment?” 31 The diagnosis itself must be drama- tized in the virtual presence of a superior tenor of life, such that ressentiment becomes that which we cease to embody, not that in which we are locked up. After all, it is never the lower class or the poor who have ressentiment, but the slaves, that is, those lacking the potential of becoming. Ressentiment is without a doubt bad, but it is not Evil and this means that, instead of judg- ing over it, we need to expose its contagious effects in such a manner that we give it the opportunity to morph into something else. As Deleuze and Guattari put it in What Is Philosophy?: “A mode of existence is good or bad, noble or vulgar, complete or empty, independently of Good and Evil or any transcendent val- ue: there are never any criteria other than the tenor of existence, the intensification of life.” 32 Only the generous affirmation of this dramatic occasion that is the neutral event of ressentiment ena- bles us to distinguish between true and false physicians of civi- lization, or indeed between the philosopher and the priest. The point is not that the physician must himself be free of ressenti- ment, but rather that he must re-activate or repeat the difference between the noble and servile becomings that insist in ressenti- ment and return them to the level of a drama of thought where one is the intermediary of the other. 33 This hierarchy is precisely

31 Bernard Stiegler, The Decadence of Industrial Democracies: Disbelief and Discredit, Volume 1, trans. Daniel Ross and Suzanne Arnold, (Cambridge/ Malden: Polity Press, 2011), 55.

32 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 74.

33 This is why Deleuze contrasts the theater of repetition with the theater of representation (Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 10).

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the genealogical difference that eternally returns in whatever exists at a certain moment and never ceases to select the noble from the ressentimental — its eternal return is the very test of their becoming, the only hammer with which the philosopher can crush the “re-” of ressentiment and reintegrate the feeling with the wider activity of the world in a becoming-active. The priest, by contrast, is unable to repeat the original genea-

logical difference and possesses only a representation of it. As

a consequence, he must derive the sense of ressentiment from

its empirical appearance. For Scheler, for example, ressentiment

is the lived state of Jews, dwarves, cripples, women, and social

democrats, who are forced to repress their envy and frustra-

tion by the socio-political order of Wilhelmine Germany. Even

if he is factually correct, the real interest of this diagnosis lies

in his defense of the values of a heroic-Christian class society. 34 His diagnosis, in other words, produces no new difference and merely identifies and consolidates already differentiated facts. Half a century later, Girard makes an empirically different but formally similar point. Consumer societies set free an unbridled cultivation of envy and ambition, and thus generate a constant experience of lack and insatiability. The only way to curb this ex- plosion of ressentiment is to repress or forbid our desires by the transcendent mediation of the Law modeled on the Decalogue (“thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s wife” etcetera). 35 Again,

we find an exclusively negative representation of our ressenti- ment with no active differentiation between noble and base be- comings. Worse still, the egalitarian conception of desire rules out the very possibility of such a difference (“admit it, in the end we all want the same anyway”). 36

34 Max Scheler, Ressentiment, trans. William W. Holdheim (New York: The Free Press, 1961), 96, 133, 177. See also Birns, “Ressentiment and Counter- Ressentiment.”

35 René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. James G. Williams (New York: Orbis Books, 2001).

36 For a more extensive critique of the positions of Scheler and Girard, see Sjoerd van Tuinen, “Links of rechts ressentiment? Pedagogie van een concept,” Krisis 1 (2013): 60–71.

the drama of ressentiment

From a genealogical perspective, then, the priest’s diagnosis of ressentiment is neither plausible nor interesting, precisely be- cause its truth obliterates the difference in the origin and pre- vents it from changing the facts. 37 In his hands, ressentiment is reduced to a conceptual readymade. Like the positivist histo- rian, he is the passive inheritor of forms from the past, but re- mains blind to the real forces that produced this form and that will continue to develop it in the future. Content with having identified the truth of ressentiment’s existence, his hybris is to betray the consistency of its becomings by replacing it with his own law of its mediation and repression. Incapable of seeing dif- ference at the origin, the priest does not believe in any positive future for ressentiment but merely invests in the perpetuation of the actual fact as legitimation of his own image of justice. 38 Lack- ing all sense of cultural elevation, however, this can only be a re- verse image, the least imaginative or speculative one. Thus even when the priest is correct to debunk the idea of social or politi- cal justice — and as a consequence the cause of political desire and struggle in general — as the ideological mask for the secret revenge of “those who came off badly [die Schlechthinwegge- kommenen],” as Dühring thought, he still sees it topsy-turvy, on the basis of a reactive interpretation of the facts. 39 For such a reduction is too “English,” as Nietzsche would say, that is, too utilitarian. It relies entirely on established values and existing categories of recognition and stays methodologically blind for

37 Christoph Narholz makes a similar point on (lack of) “interest” as tran- scendental criterion with respect to Weber’s reading of Nietzsche and res- sentiment in his essays on the sociology of religion. See Christop Narholz, Die Politik des Schönen (Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2012), 22.

38 Tyranny and tragedy, according to Stiegler, are the two forms in which consistence is reduced to existence. (Bernard Stiegler, Uncontrollable Societies of Disaffected Individuals: Disbelief and Discredit, Volume 2, trans. Daniel Ross [Cambridge/Malden: Polite Press, 2013], 35). Follow- ing Deleuze (and Gilbert Simondon), Stiegler understands the plane of consistency as the schematism of the transcendental imagination, produc- ing an image of a real drama that remains unrepresentable and without analogy yet accompanies every actualization in the imagination (ibid., 77).

39 Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 73–75.

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the difference in principle between high and low, which is now reduced to a historical difference between principle and fact. 40 As a consequence, the priest fails to acquire the diagnostician’s “right” to wield the concept of ressentiment at the same time that he exhausts its critical power of problematization in “shameful compromises” 41 with the present and reduces those to whom it applies into guilty subsistence. For the presence of ressentiment to be made interesting again for thought, we must re-dramatize its genealogical difference and thus turn it into a singularity that bears within itself the possibility of its transformation. Dramatization is the art of dif- ferences that matter, a matter of conceiving of difference differ- entially. An active genealogy speculates on the plasticity of those it addresses under the guidance of the eternal return’s authority of the best. 42 Nietzsche himself sets the example with his concept of bad conscience, which he puts forward in relation to a new conceptual persona, the priest, and in relation to a new image of thought based on the will to power understood from the point of nihilism, the will to truth. 43 Instead of declaring man guilty of being as ignoble to have interpreted his own suffering as a desirable penal state, he says that it is here that man becomes in- teresting, “more questionable, worthier of asking questions; per- haps also worthier — of living?” 44 In this way, he affirms his own distance to the perspective of the priest at the same time that he reclaims the concept of ressentiment. Everything happens as the philosopher enters into an athletic competition where what is at stake is who can see furthest, who can stretch his perspective to comprehend not just more facts but also other perspectives, until finally, the other is no longer rejected, but affirmed as the

40 Nietzsche, Geneaology of Morals, 17–18.

41 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 108.

42 For Stiegler, the tragic or dialectic spirit, like the priest, sees ressentiment as a fault (faute), whereas it is only a flaw (défaut) or imperfection (the best as relativization and dynamization of perfection) (Stiegler, The Decadence of Industrial Democracies, 55, 58).

43 Deleuze, What Is Philosophy?, 83.

44 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 113.

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other within the self. It is precisely through his struggle with the priest that the philosopher disentangles ressentiment from its internalization in guilt and conceives of it as a mere imper- fection under the horizon of the self-overcoming of man. If, as Deleuze argues, the inherited passion of the modern philoso- pher is shame, “the shame of being human,” then in the case of ressentiment we should say that the philosopher’s shame over the priest’s lack of shame constitutes the “pathos of distance” that entitles him to discover in man the project of a future. 45

Conceptual personae

The purpose of our dramatization has been to learn to differ- entiate, with Nietzsche, between philosophical and priestly manners of diagnosing ressentiment. The two types function as markers or references whenever the sense of the concept of ressentiment is to be determined. Everything happens as if the concept, even before it was first created, was already internally divided between different, asymmetrical modes in which it can be thought and exercised. The actual concept is signed Nietz- sche, but the problem it answers to retains a pre-individual and impersonal problematic, a multiplicity of unknown movements of thought that insist one in the other. This is why Deleuze and Guattari emphasize that Nietzsche’s concept of ressentiment is inseparable from the various conceptual personae that form its “intercessors,” its real thinking subjects of enunciation or “thought-events” by which the concepts come alive and become oriented. 46 Conceptual personae are the powers of imagination that function as navigators and compass in the determination of the undetermined concept. For if the will to power together with the eternal return of difference is Nietzsche’s plane of im- manence (and the critique of the will to truth is his image of

45 On shame as the inherited sentiment of the philosopher, see Sjoerd van Tuinen “Populism and Grandeur: From Marx to Arafat,” in This Deleuzian Century: Art, Activism, Life, eds. Rick Dolphijn and Rosi Braidotti, 87–114 (Amsterdam: Brill | Rodopi, 2014).

46 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 64–65.

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thought), this plane must include not only repulsive concepts such as ressentiment and bad conscience, but also the pretensions of those who understand the will to power only from the point of view of nihilism. As a persona in the Nietzschean dramaturgy of ressentiment, the priest is the negative mirror image of the philosopher, a minimal power of imagination that immediately turns against its “author” by fixating the thought-movement in an empirical judgment. 47 But precisely by being affirmed as im- manent, he is nonetheless integrated in a transcendental field of thought which, distributed over a proliferating plurality of irreducible and sometimes apparently mutually exclusive points of view, has a compelling and all the more powerful objective structure — a polemical and dramatic consistency — all of its own: “another always thinks in me, another who must also be thought.” 48 What orients us in this spastic schizophrenia of thought and distinguishes the philosopher from the priest cannot be the sub- jectivity or mentality of the thinker. Rather, what distinguishes them is their respective “pathos” and their mutual sympathies and antipathies. Whereas knowledge and ethics are already sub- jective manners of inhabiting and imagining the world, pathos precedes all subjectivity and constitutes the place in the world

47 Ibid., 65, 83.

48 Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 199–200. Philosophy, Deleuze and Guattari write, proceeds “blow by blow” (Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 76), in a constant combat with all the other personae that are enfolded within its own plane of consistency. Hence philosophy’s affinity with schizophrenia, or the stammering of the Idiot as yet another persona that forms an internal condition for the reality of a thought movement. If the coherence of the drama is a witch’s ride, the personae are the mari- onettes of the philosopher’s delirium. “I am no longer myself but thought’s aptitude for finding itself and spreading across a plane that passes through me at several places. The philosopher is the idiosyncracy of his conceptual personae. The destiny of the philosopher is to become his conceptual persona or personae, at the same time that these personae themselves become something other than what they are historically, mythologically or commonly (the Socrates of Plato, the Dionysus of Nietzsche, the Idiot of Nicholas of Cusa)” (ibid., 64, 70).

the drama of ressentiment

that the subject comes to occupy. 49 It is the singularly embodied experience that defines a perspective, the implicit condition for there to be any empirical fact at all; it is the “being-potential of the concept,” 50 an “instinctive, almost animal sapere — a Fiat or a Fatum that gives each philosopher the right of access to certain problems, like an imprint on his name or an affinity from which his works flow.” 51 Whereas the priest, like a scien- tist, registers and knows ressentiment on the basis of its gener- al recognizability or form and therefore lacks the taste for its relevance for the becoming of (a) life, the wisdom (sapientia, which Nietzsche equals to its etymological root in sapio, taste) of the philosopher consists of a taste for what is worthy of know- ing (wissenswürdig). 52 “Philosophy does not consist in knowing and is not inspired by truth,” as Deleuze and Guattari repeat in the manner of the pragmatists, “Rather, it is categories like In- teresting, Remarkable, or Important that determine success or failure.” 53 The criterion of thought is not adequacy to the given, but the efficacy of an act of thought that hierarchizes the given. The only criterion for its failure or success is the movement it

49 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 252.

50 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 69, 77–79.

51 Ibid., 79. Or as Deleuze wrote more than twenty years earlier: “There is something irreducible in the depths of the spirit: a monolithic bloc of Fa- tum, of decision already taken on all problems in their measure and their relation to us; and also a right that we have to accede to certain problems, like a hot-iron brand imprinted on our names” (Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 200).

52 Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, trans. Mari- anne Cowan (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1962), 43.

53 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 82. Dramatization is therefore the method of philosophical pragmatism: “A true idea, in the pragmatic sense, is an idea that changes something in a satisfactory way in the mind of the person thinking it. The true idea is not only what one believes, does, or thinks; it is what makes us believe, makes us act or makes us think. Pragmatism is thus at the same time a method of evaluation of truth. […] In effect, truth is now evaluated in function of a value that exceeds it: the Interesting” (David Lapoujade, William James: Empirisme et pragmatisme [Paris: Seuil, 2007], 74).

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implies. Hence whereas the priest always speaks with calm rea- son, the philosopher’s taste for exceptions finds its element in something that is all but reasonable. 54 If both the philosopher and the priest refer to the empirical fact of ressentiment, and yet only the former can lay claim to the full complexity of its prob- lem, this is because he is inspired by a pathos of distance. Not only is there no logos without pathos; the philosophical pathos situates us within a polemos, that is, a rivalry of taste. Variety and conflict are not shortcomings of thought, but the original, primitive form of dramaturgy that belongs to philosophy and distinguishes it from its rivals. To formulate general rules and categories of thought, by contrast, already comes down to the end of taste. For this reason, dialectics, from Socrates to Hegel, is bad taste in philosophy. 55 Inspired precisely by the pathos of the priest, it is a taste for judgment, not for the problematization of becomings. Dialectics is never a real mediation as it reduces conflict to the general criteria of true knowledge, conflating the plane of immanence and the personae that occupy it within a propositional form without a real thought-movement. The taste of the philosopher, by contrast, acquires its validity and apodic- ticity only through its medial position, through enveloping into but also away from the competing becomings against which it has to be measured itself. Always beginning “from the middle,” taking effect through shocks and proceeding in bursts, only the philosopher has the “power of decision” 56 to give ressentiment its proper name, even if the word has been abused by so many coming before or after him. 57

54 Nietzsche, Gay Science, 77.

55 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 80.

56 Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 199.

57 If the body is the domain of becomings before they are fixed by discourse and words, the task of the philosopher is to reach for the body and de- termine the consistency of its becomings, and thus give the body its first name. Cf. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlin- son and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989),


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In this sense of “[t]he lordly right of giving names,” 58 we may conclude that while the priest is the heteronym of Nietz- sche, a character who thinks in Nietzsche, Nietzsche is only the pseudonym of the priest. The priest is a necessary co-pilot or wingman 59 in the flight of the concept surveying the plane of immanence, but he does not explain the becoming of Nietz- schean philosophy. Whereas the priest consumes the concept of ressentiment as a psychological readymade (recognizing res- sentiment everywhere) and reverses its critical sense (passing a moral judgment by identifying it with envy), he lacks the pathos that was necessary to invent the concept in the first place. While the philosopher offers the belief, orientation, or sense for com- batting ressentiment, the priest merely possesses its truth and in this way continues morality, even in the criticism of morality itself. 60 Just as philosophy is folded over a sensual analogy, that je ne sais quoi that is the drama of the body in its silent and obscure becomings, the priest is its clear but confused abjec- tion, the betrayal of the body’s potential of becoming-other, or indeed, of the very justice and consistency of its passions. The priest, in other words, is the very embodiment of the risk of phi- losophy’s moralization.

58 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 26.

59 Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 78.

60 Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, 151–52.


The Affective Economy:

Producing and Consuming Affects in Deleuze and Guattari

Jason Read

The thought of Gilles Deleuze (and Félix Guattari) bears an ambiguous relation with respect to the “affective turn” in social and political thought that it supposedly helped initiate. This am- biguity touches on the very role and meaning of affects. From Deleuze’s writings on Friedrich Nietzsche and Baruch Spinoza through the collaborations of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari insist on the central role of the affects, joy, sadness, fear, and hope, as structuring individual and collective life. In that sense, Deleuze and Guattari are rightfully hailed as central figures in a turn toward affect. However, if, as some argue, the “affective turn” is a turn toward the lived over the structural and the intimate over the public, then Deleuze and Guattari’s thought has a much more complex relation to affects. The broader polemical target of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti- Oedipus, beyond the specific polemics with psychoanalysis, is any explanatory theory that would reduce social relations to ex- pressions of individual passions and desires. Deleuze and Guat- tari’s claim that there is only “desire and the social, and nothing else” is oriented against such individualistic accounts of not only

deleuze and the passions

social relations but subjectivity as well. 1 Moreover, Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of capitalism argues that it reproduces itself in and through the encounter of abstract quantities of money and labor power, and as such is a social relation that is indifferent to the beliefs and meaning that we attach to it. Thus, if affect is central to Deleuze and Guattari’s thought, it is necessary to add the caveats that affect must be thought of as anti-individualistic rather than individualistic, as social rather than intimate, and as impersonal, reflecting the abstractions that dominate life. The caveats with respect to affect are as much strengths as they are limitations. Which is to say that it is not a matter of sim- ply reconciling the concept of affect with Deleuze and Guattari’s critiques of Oedipal explanations and theory of capital, but of producing a concept of affect which is both anti-individualistic and adequate to the real abstractions and structural complexi- ties of contemporary capitalism. If affect is to be the basis of a critical theory of contemporary society it must be radically sep- arated from individualist accounts of social relations, accounts that have become increasingly pervasive in a neoliberal self-help culture, on the one hand, and attuned to the “real abstractions” of contemporary capitalism, on the other. Affect must be a way of grasping the abstractions that determine individual and col- lective life, rather than a retreat into an interior free of them.

Intensive affects and extensive emotions

Deleuze’s engagement with affects is framed by two different philosophers: Spinoza and Gilbert Simondon. It was Spinoza who recognized both the ontological dimensions of affects, de- fining everything by its capacity to affect and be affected, and the political and social dimension of affects; they do not ori- ent mere individual striving but do so only in and through the encounters and relations with others. Political collectives are

1 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizo- phrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane (Minneapo- lis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), 29.

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defined more by common structures of feeling than common notions and ideas. The central task of politics, any politics, is then of organizing and defining the affects. Affects are thus nec- essarily both anti-humanist, defining all of existence in various ways, and transindividual, passing in and through relations with others. Deleuze’s definition, or use of affects, exceeds Spinoza in that he adds another distinction: between the intensive order of affects and the extensive order of emotions. This definition is close to Simondon, as we will see below, for whom affects cor- respond to the intense and metastable dimension of existence, defined by tensions and transformations, while emotions are more defined and individuated. It is thus no surprise that this distinction has been read by affect theorists, such as Brian Mas- sumi, to correspond to a distinction between affect, understood as an impersonal intensity, and emotion, understood as a sub- jectivized and individuated feeling. As Massumi writes:

An emotion is a subjective content, the sociolinguistic fix- ing of the quality of an experience which is from that point onward defined as personal. Emotion is qualified intensity, the conventional, consensual point of insertion of intensity into semantically and semiotically formed progressions, into narrativizable action-reaction circuits, into function and meaning. It is intensity owned and recognized. It is crucial to theorize the difference between affect and emotion. 2

While such a distinction may help orient Deleuze’s thought of affect, it is completely absent from Spinoza’s work. Spinoza’s use of the term affect (affectus in Latin) is absolutely and rigorously consistent; affects define not only the different states of human subjective life, from the basic joy and sadness to the complex and ambivalent affects of jealousy and ambition, but define eve- rything, every finite thing has a capacity to affect or be affected. Affects are less some uniquely human attribute, making us a

2 Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Dur- ham: Duke University Press, 2002), 28.

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kingdom within a kingdom, but the general rule of existence; that of being modified or affected by encounters and relations, of which human life is only a particularly complex instance. For Spinoza we are constituted and individuated through our affects; the affective composition differs from individual to in- dividual, but this individuation does not take the form of a dis- tinction between affects and emotions. Despite these terminological differences it is thus possible to understand affect in Deleuze as reconciling two different prob- lems: Spinoza’s emphasis on the political organization of affect, and Simondon’s emphasis on affects as individuation. Simon- don’s thought is oriented around a central problematization of the individual. Individuation has to be considered as a process and not the default state of being. This process moves from a milieu that is considered pre-individual, made up of tensions and relations, to a process of individuation that increasingly en- compasses different levels and aspects, biological, psychic, and social. The social is then not a negation of individuation, but its condition. Transindividuality lies in the fact that the social is not so much a suppression of individuality, a loss of the individual in the collective, but its transformation and condition. Within this relation the distinction between affect and emotion figures twice. First in that affects are less individuated than emotions; while emotions are the emotions of specific subjects relating to specific objects, affects constitute more of an inchoate sense or sensibility. Second in that affects are intensive while emotions are extensive. The passage from affects to emotions is part of general individuation, and as such it necessarily passes through the constitution of collectivity. As Simondon writes:

If one is able to speak in a certain sense of the individuality of a group or such and such a people, it is not by virtue of a community of action, too discontinuous to be a solid base, nor of the identity of conscious representations, too large and too continuous to permit the segregation of groups; it is at

the affective economy

the level of affective-emotional themes, mixtures of repre- sentation and action, that constitute collective groups. 3

The individuality of the collective, if it is to have any individu- ality at all, must be sought at the level of particular affects and emotions, particular ways of feeling and perceiving the world, which is often tied to particular objects. In place of the rigid dis- tinction between affect and emotion, in which one is social, the other individual, Simondon argues that both individuals and collectives are constituted by affects and emotions. Individuals individuated as subjects and the individuation of collectivity, the constitution of definite collectives, are both constituted through the pre-individual dimension of affects, and their increasing in- dividuation into emotional evaluations. Collectives are defined by their “structures of feeling.” Despite the terminological difference of affect and emotion, both Spinoza and Simondon see affect as something that pass- es between the pre-individual and the transindividual (even if these specific terms are missing from the former). For Simon- don affects are part of the metastable milieu that remains, even as individual emotions and perceptions are constituted. The af- fective dimension carries over from the pre-individual consti- tuting a kind of indetermination at the heart of individuation, an indetermination that demands a social dimension in order to be at least partially resolved. In a similar fashion, Spinoza’s affects are pre-individual, they are less determinate states of in- dividuals and properties of objects than passages and transfor- mations, increases and decreases of power. Joy is nothing other than a passage from a lesser to a greater perfection and sadness is only the opposite. Affects are intensities, transformations of states, rather than determinate conditions. These states cannot be separated from their supposed opposites, from the ambiva- lence of the affects; sadness cannot be rigorously separated from joy, hate from love. As much as the affects are less determined

3 Gilbert Simondon, L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information (Grenoble: Jérôme Million, 2005), 248.

deleuze and the passions

states than an index of their transformation, initiating a process of the constitution and destruction of individuation, they are necessarily transindividual. Or, more to the point, it is because the affects are always situated in the increases and decreases of power that they are necessarily transindividual. For Simondon the progression of individuation that takes place between affects and emotions necessarily passes through the transindividual as affects coalesce around perceptual points of view and relations. 4 While in Spinoza it is not that one passes from the pre-individ- ual affects to individuated emotions, but the basic affects of love and hate enter into increasingly individuated combinations as they shape the affective composition of an individual. As Spi- noza writes, “each affect of each individual differs from the af- fect of another as much as the essence of one from the essence of the other.” 5 The different essences are nothing other than the different compositions and combinations of affects. Affects and emotions are the transindividual intersection between individ- ual and collective individuation. The difference of terminology between affect and emotion risks obscuring other, more salient, differences between Simon- don and Spinoza. Spinoza’s re